Yemen: death sentence against prominent writer

Yahya al-Jubaihi, 61 years-old, is a writer and journalist. He is member of the Arab Journalists’ Association and Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate. He published research studies and articles and wrote regular columns in many Yemeni and other Arabic newspapers such as Okaz and al-Madina. He particularly published an article in December 2015 in which he sharply criticized the Houthi raids and invasions of some regions in Yemen. According to news reports, this article has led to his arrest and conviction. Al-Jubaihi studied media at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia and obtained a Master’s degree in International Media in 1986 from the US Indiana University. He worked as media director at the Council of Ministers in Yemen between 1987 and 1997 and lectured “media and development” at the University of Sana’a/Faculty of media.

On 6 September 2016, Al-Jubaihi was arrested by Houthi uniformed security agents in front of his house in Yemeni capital Sana’a; they also broke into his home and confiscated his electronic devices, books and other documents. According to his family, Al-Jubaihi was transferred to several prisons and detentions centres before being sentenced to death on 12 April 2017 by a Houthi rebel court in Sana’a. According to news report, the verdict has been issued without respect of the principles of fair trial, particularly lawyers were not allowed to meet Al-Jubaihi or to attend the hearing and the court decision was pronounced in only one hearing . Al-Jubaihi was found guilty of spying for a foreign country (Saudi Arabia) and helping the rival President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who resigned in January 2015 after pressure from Houthis. Before being arrested in September 2016, Al-Jubaihi had received anonymous threats and was asked to write an article supporting Houthi presence in Sana’a, which he refused. During his detention, Al-Jubaihi was denied access to medical care despite being in poor health.

It is worth noting that it is the first time a death sentence is issued under Houthi authority against a writer. On 10 April 2017, 36 activists, among them blogger, writers, human rights defenders and professors, appeared before the same court in Sana’a. All of them have been arbitrarily arrested during the last two years without charge or fair trial. According to News report, the activists bore signs of torture and other ill-treatment. They are being accused of disruption and making assassination attempts. To date no verdict has been reached in this case. Pen International will continue to closely monitor the situation of these activists and to call for the full respect the right to freedom of expression.

The situation for freedom of expression and opinion in Yemen has declined sharply since 2014, following the Houthis’ invasion of Sana’a. Many journalists have been forced to flee the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists considered Yemen to be the third most dangerous place in the world for journalists in 2016.