In Yemen’s Houthi-held capital, a court has sentenced four activists, including three Yemeni YouTubers, to prison terms ranging from six months to three years after they published videos alleging abuses by the Iran-aligned fighters. The activists were convicted on Tuesday of inciting chaos, disrupting public peace, and insulting the Houthis. They were detained in Sanaa in December and January on charges stemming from videos they had posted on social media last year criticizing the Houthis over alleged corruption and their handling of the economy.
According to their lawyer, Waddah Qutaish, the Houthis’ crackdown on dissent and on those seen as working for the Saudi-led coalition has intensified. The rebels control Sanaa and most of northern Yemen. The Yemeni YouTubers’ arrest and trial are part of the Houthis’ efforts to suppress freedom of speech and individual liberties, including free speech and movement of women in areas they control.
Who are the Yemeni YouTubers?
One of the Yemeni YouTubers, Ahmed Allaw, was sentenced to three years while another, Mustafa al-Mawmari, got a year and a half. Ahmed Hajar and Hamoud al-Mesbahi, the other two activists, were sentenced to a year and six months, respectively. The court also ordered the closure of the activists’ YouTube channels and fined them each 10 million Yemeni riyals, or about $40,000, Qutaish added. He denounced the verdict as “politically motivated” and said he would appeal.
The sentences came a day after Houthi-controlled media released videos of the men renouncing their earlier criticisms of the rebels. The latest footage sparked an uproar among some Yemenis, who claimed the statements had been coerced. The sentences also followed Monday’s announcement of a prisoner exchange agreed upon between the Houthis and Yemen’s government, after talks overseen by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland. The deal covers more than 800 conflict-related prisoners, including journalists captured by the fighters, according to Yemeni government officials, as well as 15 Saudis, according to Houthi officials.
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