Yemen: IFJ calls on appeal court to reject death sentence against 4 journalists

Brussels, February 26, 2021 – Four journalists arrested in 2015 by Houthi forces in the Yemeni capital Sana’a will launch their appeal hearing on 28 February against a death sentence handed down after their conviction on charges of treason and espionage for foreign states. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS), call on the Appeal Court to uphold their appeal and reverse the sentence.

Journalists Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid, and Akram Al-Walidi were arrested together with five other journalists on 9 June 2015 at the Hotel Dream Castle in Sana’a. According to media reports, their arrest was motivated by their reporting on human rights violations committed by Houthi forces.

Since then, they have been subjected to a series of crimes, including disappearance, physical and psychological torture, denial of the right to be visited and the right to have access to medical care. These actions break all international conventions and norms on the treatment of prisoners.

On 21 February 2019, the IFJ sent a letter to UN General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, and the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, urging them to “bring their full authority and the powerful array of legal tools at their disposal to demand the immediate and non-negotiable release of them”.

Two months later, on 30 April 2019, the IFJ and YJS reitetated demands for their immediate  and condemned the use of the journalists as bargaining chips in the country’s ongoing conflict.

On 16 April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced them to death. The IFJ sent another letter to the UN General Secretary urging him to support moves to protect their lives and demand the release of all journalists jailed in the country.

The YJS said in a statement that “the suffering of our fellow journalists is not limited to depriving them of their freedom and torturing them psychologically and physically, but it also extends to their families who are living in a tragic situation, awaiting the return of their relatives”.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “These death sentences are an absolute blow to press freedom in a country where working as a journalist is an everyday challenge. Together with YJS we urge the Court of Appeal to fully reject the death sentence and set our colleagues free.”

The latest report of media freedom violations by YJS documented 112 cases of violations of media and journalists’ rights in 2020. The Houthi group was responsible for 29.5% of this total. 

According to the IFJ’s latest statistics, Yemen ranks seventh in the world for having the most journalists imprisoned. Forty-four media workers have been killed in Yemen in the past 10 years.

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