Yemen: Four journalists remain in detention after being transferred for prisoner exchange

31.03.21

On 28 March 2021, the Specialised Criminal Appellate Court in Yemen’s capital Sana'a held another session to consider the appeal submitted by the defense team of the four journalists sentenced to death on charges of "espionage" and "spreading false news." The four journalists, Abdulkhaleq Ahmed Amran, Akram Saleh Al-Walidi, Al-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri, were not present in court, nor have they been freed. 

No response was received from the Security and Intelligence Service despite the fact that the Public Prosecution wrote to them asking about their fate. The court also asked the representative of the Security and Intelligence Service the reason they did not bring the four journalists to court, and he repeated what he said in the previous hearing on 28 March 2021, that the four journalists had been released from prison, but the court did not put this in the records. 

The defense team asked the court to close the case against the four journalists as they should be regarded as released, but the court did not confirm this request in the hearing records. The court decided to adjourn the hearing until 23 May 2021.

The four journalists are still in constant suffering, as they have been detained in the Exchange House since October 2020, where their families have not had access to them. Also, prison administration personnel continue to threaten them with execution if they are not released as part of a prisoner exchange deal. In addition, health care is fully not available in this facility. Journalist Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri suffers from a deteriorating health condition, and his request for treatment, at his personal expense, was not met.

Human rights lawyer Abdulmajeed Sabra, who is in charge of defending the four journalists, explained on his Facebook page, “What was issued by the Specialised Criminal Court of First Instance on 11 April 2020 against the four journalists is not considered a judicial ruling in the legal sense, but rather is a murder order where no legal or constitutional text applies to its issuance procedures, as it was contrary to all that and lacked the simplest and most basic elements of a fair trial.”

The Exchange House is a prison that holds prisoners whom the de facto government (the Houthi group) decides to exchange with Houthi prisoners of war held by other parties to the conflict. It’s located in the central security camp in the centre of Sana'a. The prisoner exchange operations are supervised by the Chairman of the Houthi Prisoner Exchange Committee, Abdulqadir Al-Murtada.

For more information on the case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2625

While welcoming the news that the four journalists are no longer in prison facing the death penalty, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) condemns the sentencing of the journalists in violation of their right to freedom of expression and calls for their immediate and unconditional freedom. GCHR calls on the United Nations to continue to press the Houthi authorities to free all journalists and allow them to carry out their work unhindered.