Amnesty International called Wednesday on the Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels in Yemen, who fight the internationally recognized government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to immediately release 10 journalists held for nearly four years on trumped-up spying charges.
The men have been held since the summer of 2015 and were formally charged in December 2018 with a series of offences, including aiding the Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States. Their trial has not yet taken place, and it’s unclear when it might start.
“It is completely outrageous that these men could face the death penalty simply for doing their jobs. The charges against them are false and should be dropped immediately,” Amnesty researcher Rasha Mohamed said in a statement.
Amnesty charged that over the course of their detention, the journalists have forcibly disappeared, been deprived of access to medical care, and suffered torture and other ill-treatment.
“They are believed to suffer from a range of health problems, including abdominal pain, for which they have been refused treatment. Officials in the Political Security Office have also prevented visiting families from bringing detainees medication,” the organization said.
Nine of the journalists were detained in a single raid on the Qasr Al Ahlam hotel in Sana’a in 2015, while the tenth journalist was arrested at his home by Houthi forces the same year. Some of the men worked for online news outlets affiliated with al-Islah, a political party that opposes the Houthi rule.
“These men are being punished for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. The de facto Huthi authorities should release them immediately and drop all the charges against them,” Mohamed said.
“Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work free from harassment, intimidation or threat of arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention or prosecution,” he added.
Amnesty accused the Iranian-backed group of arbitrarily arresting and detaining political opponents, journalists, human rights activists, and members of the Baha’i faith – a small religious community that faces severe persecution in areas controlled by Iran and its proxies.
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