x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Yemen to put eight rebels to death

Yemen's state security court sentence eight al Houthi rebels to death for taking part in battles against government forces near the capital last year.

SANA'A // Yemen's state security court yesterday sentenced eight al Houthi rebels to death for taking part in battles against government forces near the capital last year. Thirteen others were sentenced to terms ranging from five to 12 years in prison. "The defendants participated in an armed gang to fight against security forces in Bani Hushaish district, which resulted in killing a big number of army and security personnel as well as innocent citizens, in addition to the destruction of a number of army vehicles," Ridhwan al Namir, the judge, said.

On hearing the verdict, the convicts, who were arrested in May 2008, shouted: "God is great"; "Death to America"; "Death to Israel"; and "Curse upon the Jews, victory for Islam - We will not accept repression". The convicts are associated with those fighting the army in Sa'ada and in the Harf Sufian district of neighbouring Amran province. Mr al Namir said the group members received orders from the insurgency leadership in the northern province of Sa'ada to move to Bani Hushaish, about 30km north of Sana'a, the capital, and open a new battlefield for their cause. He also said the defendants disseminated handouts and books of the slain Hussein al Houthi, the rebel leader who started the insurgency in 2004, among residents.

"After they spread all their views among the people and gained supporters, they moved to the next step, which is procuring money and weapons to confront the state, which they believe is an agent for the Americans and Jews," the judge said. Two defendants were acquitted. The judge said they suffered from psychological problems and should be held in a psychiatric clinic until they recover. The men, dressed in blue uniforms and handcuffed, refused to appeal the verdict because they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the court and its trial procedures.

This is the latest in a series of recent trials involving Shiite insurgents. Including these verdicts, the number of al Houthis from the Bani Hushaish group condemned to death has reached 33. The men are among 190 rebel fighters captured by security forces during the clashes in Bani Hushaish that erupted in May 2008 and that had gone on for about three months. They are being tried in groups. Forty-four rebels still must face trial.

On Monday, the same court opened a trial in absentia of Yahya al Houthi, an MP and brother of Abdulmalik al Houthi, the rebel leader, accusing him of playing a leading role in the Shiite rebellion. He resides in Germany. Fierce fighting continues between the army and al Houthi insurgents in Sa'ada and Harf Sufian. The army said yesterday 11 rebels were arrested, including a 10-year-child who was used by the rebels to carry explosives and ammunition.

The army also said it repulsed an attack by the al Houthi fighters on Qarn al Damam, killing a number of the attackers, but did not provide details. The rebels said in an e-mailed statement on Friday that the air force shelled Bani al Nadheer village in Razeh, Sa'ada and killed more than 30 civilians and wounded at least 15 others. The army denied that it carried out an air strike on a village in Razeh and targeted civilians.

"These allegations disseminated by the terrorist and sabotage elements are false and groundless," an unnamed military source said in a statement on Friday. Such reports could not be verified from independent sources. Both Sa'ada and Harf Sufian are closed to journalists. The government launched a massive operation on August 11 against the rebels, who have been fighting an intermittent war for more than five years. Al Houthi rebels belong to the Zaidi offshoot of Shia Islam.

The government accuses the rebels of wanting to restore the Zaidi imamate that was overthrown in the 1962 revolution and of being supported by parties in Iran. Al Houthis accuse the Saudis of supporting the government and the Saudi air force of taking part in the pounding of Sa'ada, an accusation denied by both Sana'a and Riyadh. @Email:malqadhi@thenational.ae