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Four journalists in Yemen sentenced to death for spying

The four were sentenced for 'collaborating' with the Saudi-led coalition
The men are among a group of 10 who were allegedly mistreated according to rights groups (AFP)

A Houthi-run court in Yemen has sentenced four journalists to death after they were convicted on spying charges, their defence lawyer has said.

The four were accused of “collaborating with the enemy", meaning the Saudi-led coalition that has been at war with the Iran-backed rebels since 2015, Abdel-Majeed Sabra told the Associated Press.

Sabra identified the four who were sentenced to death as Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq al-Mansouri.

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Last year Amnesty International called on the Houthis to release the men, who were part of a group detained in 2015 and held for four years. The men suffered beatings and were held in solitary confinement, the rights group said.

“These men are being punished for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

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.

The court in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, convicted the other six journalists on charges, including “spreading false news and rumours” to aid the Saudi-led coalition, but ordered their release after time served, Sabra said.

He said the Houthis did not allow defence lawyers to attend the trial. The verdict can be appealed.

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.