RSF condemns death sentence passed on journalist held by Houthis

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the death sentence that a Sanaa criminal court controlled by Houthi rebels has imposed on Yemeni journalist Yahya Abdelraqib Al-Jubaihi on a charge of spying for an enemy country.

Aged 62, Jubaihi was sentenced on 12 April after being convicted on the basis of past contacts with the Saudi embassy. It is the first time a journalist has been sentenced to death in Yemen. The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate has called the sentence “unconstitutional,” pointing out that he was unable to defend himself during the trial.

This Houthi-imposed death sentence sets a dangerous precedent for journalists in Yemen,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Issued at the end of an unfair trial, it constitutes a grave violation of international law. We urge Houthi leaders to free this journalist at once.”

The information ministry has condemned the sentence. It was also condemned on Twitter by Abdel Malak al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, who called on United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres to intervene.

RSF also urges the UN to do everything possible to obtain the release of all journalists arbitrarily held by armed groups in Yemen. It has also been condemned by the information ministry.

A respected journalist, Jubaihi has been held in Sanaa’s Habra prison ever since he was arrested at his home on 6 September 2016. As well as working for Saudi and Yemeni media outlets such as Al-Tagheer, he used to run the prime minister’s press office and advised the cabinet on media affairs.

At least 16 journalists and media workers are currently held by armed groups in Yemen, including the Houthis and Al-Qaeda. Yemen is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.