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Amnesty urges Yemen's Houthis to free 10 journalists held for spying

Rights group says men held since the summer of 2015 have been tortured and may face the death penalty
Rights groups have accused all parties in the four-year conflict of carrying out arbitrary detentions (AFP)

Amnesty International has called on Yemen's Houthi movement to free 10 journalists held for nearly four years on what the rights group described as trumped-up spying charges.

The Houthis ousted the internationally recognised Yemeni government from power in Sanaa in late 2014, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene in the war in 2015 to try to restore the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Amnesty said the 10 men have been held since the summer of 2015 and that they were formally charged in December 2018 with a series of offences, including spying and aiding the coalition, by a specialised court that handles terrorism-related cases.

"It is completely outrageous that these men could face the death penalty simply for doing their jobs," Rasha Mohamed, Amnesty's Yemen researcher, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The charges against them are false and should be dropped immediately." 

The head of the Houthis' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said in response to a Reuters' query for comment on the report via Whatsapp: "There is no truth to what some are claiming ... Let them provide proof that these people are present and they are journalists."

'Deprived of access to medical care'

Some of the journalists worked for online news outlets affiliated with the Islah party, which is part of Hadi's government, the Amnesty statement said. 

Nine of them were arrested in a raid on a hotel in Sanaa, the capital which is controlled by the Houthis, while one man was detained at home by Houthi forces.

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It was not clear when their trials would take place, it added.

"Over the course of their detention the men have been forcibly disappeared, held in intermittent incommunicado detention, been deprived of access to medical care and suffered torture and other ill-treatment," Amnesty said.

Rights groups have accused all parties in the four-year conflict, including the coalition and Hadi's government, of carrying out arbitrary detentions.

The conflict, seen widely in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.