Yemen: Entisar Al-Hammadi and her colleague continue to be held illegally; while four journalists await release

28.05.21

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that a court in Yemen has confirmed that four journalists who had been sentenced to death will be released, and calls for the release of two actors, detained since February 2021.

On 23 March 2021, the Specialised Criminal Appeal Court in the capital Sana'a held a new hearing 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-WalidiAl-Hareth Saleh Hamid and Tawfiq Mohammed Al-Mansouri, were not present in court.

During this hearing, the Specialised Criminal Prosecution Office submitted a written memorandum issued by the Security and Intelligence Service on 24 April 2021, which includes confirmation that the four journalists have been handed over to the National Committee for Captives’ Affairs (a body that oversees prisoners of war) under the release orders issued by the President of the Supreme Political Council.

However, the four journalists are still suffering since being moved in October 2020 to the Exchange House, which is a prison that holds those 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 their case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2665

Reliable local reports received by GCHR confirmed that the four journalists are still prohibited from receiving visits, and that journalist Al-Mansouri has still not been allowed to obtain appropriate treatment. One of his family members confirmed that he was already suffering from rheumatic heart disease, diabetes, asthma and shortness of breath, prostatitis, and symptoms of kidney failure. Given his lack of access to the necessary medical treatment and appropriate medicines for his various diseases, his health condition has worsened recently. His other three colleagues are also suffering from various diseases and have no access to proper medical care.

For more information, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2536

While GCHR welcomes the news that the release order of the four journalists has officially been documented by the court, and that they no longer face the death penalty, it condemns their imprisonment in the Exchange House where they are being treated as prisoners of war. GCHR calls for their immediate and unconditional freedom. GCHR also calls on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to release all detained journalists, in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and to allow them to carry out their work without hindrance.

In another case, on 26 May 2021, actress and model Entisar Al-Hammadi was interrogated again inside the Central Prison in Sana’a, in an investigation that was attended by the Public Prosecutor Deputy and the Public Prosecution Office of the West Secretariat. She was confronted with the conversations and pictures on her mobile phone that her lawyer and legal advisor Khaled Al-Kamal described, saying, "Nothing has been proven against her, for everything that exists are ordinary matters." Her colleague was also interrogated, and it is not clear if the Public Prosecution’s office has decided to file an indictment in the case.

Al-Kamal told GCHR, “My clients, Entisar Al-Hammadi and her colleague, are innocent, and no charge has been proven against them and they must be released immediately in accordance with the constitution and Yemeni laws. Likewise, attempting to place any accusation without evidence to prove her guilt is null and void." Al-Kamal has documented 20 violations of the law regarding this case, among them: the denial of visits by their families and their lawyers for a period of more than two and a half months, the failure to hand over the approved document giving power of attorney to the lawyer despite it being ready, and failing to make a copy of the case file available to the defense team. He has also been threatened for taking up their case.

He also made clear that according to the Yemeni Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Public Prosecution must act within 24 hours following the referral of a case, either by releasing those detained in the absence of charges, or by pre-trial detention for a period of seven days after questioning those in detention and confronting them with evidence.

Article 48, Paragraph A of the Yemeni Constitution affirms the following: “The state guarantees citizens their personal freedom and preserves their dignity and security. The law defines cases that restrict the citizen’s freedom, and no one’s freedom may be restricted without a ruling from a competent court.” However, what is happening in the case of Al-Hammadi and her colleague is that almost 100 days have passed since they were detained without any charges being brought against them or brought before a competent court.

On 20 February 2021, Houthis in civilian clothes arrested the two actors without an arrest warrant at a checkpoint in the Shamlan area, west of Sana’a, and held them incommunicado. After launching a large-scale Twitter campaign (#freedom_Enntisar_Alhammadi), the Houthis referred her case for investigation in April.

For more details, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2721

On 26 May 2021, Judge Abdulwahab Mohammed Qatran wrote on his Facebook page the following, "I challenge you to copy the file of Entisar Al-Hammadi and enable us to view it, and we will expose you from inside the case file papers ... we are men of law and the judiciary, and we pledged ourselves to defend every oppressed, persecuted and crushed."

On 25 May 2021, he also wrote on his page, "This morning, we went to the Central Prison in Sana’a to visit the brave young woman who was imprisoned unjustly, arbitrarily and forcibly, Entisar Al-Hammadi - me and a group of writers, intellectuals, journalists, journalists, lawyers and judges, including Judge Ahmed Saif Hashed, the former head of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate Abdulbari Taher, literary critic Ahmed Naji Al-Nabhani, writer Hassan Al-Dawla, lawyer Nadia Al-Khulaifi, journalist Wedad Al-Badawi, Dr. Taiba Barakat, her lawyer Khaled Al-Kamal, and others."

He added, "Al-Hammadi explained to us with courage and dignity, what she was subjected to in terms of oppression, arbitrariness and injustice, and fabricated accusations, starting with accusing her of promoting drugs without any evidence by the Specialised Criminal Prosecution, then when they did not find evidence against her, the Specialised Criminal Prosecution referred her to the Public Prosecution Office of the West Secretariat, and accused her of practicing prostitution without any evidence. She told us that the Public Prosecution member, Riad Al-Iryani, investigated her and did not find evidence against her, so he decided to release her."

Judge Qatran, who faced several threats recently because of his courageous defense of Al-Hammadi and her colleague, abandoned his career as a judge nearly five years ago after his salary was cut, as well as due to insecurity, marginalisation, exclusion and the lowering of legal standards that do not depend on competence and experience.

GCHR calls on the Houthis to immediately release Entisar Al-Hammadi and her colleague and to stop persecuting women based on their profession, or public profiles. Women must be respected as equal under the law in Yemen. GCHR further calls on the Houthis to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the legal system, and that lawyers may do their jobs without facing threats.