Top Stories The released journalists tell the BBC their suffering in the prisons of the Houthi militiaليشيا

The released journalists tell the BBC their suffering in the prisons of the Houthi militiaليشيا

Hisham goes out every morning to a hospital near his home in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to seek treatment for neck pain.

Hisham Tarmoom and five of his fellow journalists had fled the Yemeni city of Ma’rib after spending five and a half years in Houthi prisons.

The Houthi forces arrested the six Yemenis along with ten others in the summer of 2015, then were tried on charges of “communicating with the enemy” and “spreading malicious news” coinciding with the start of the Saudi-led military operation “Operation Decisive Storm” on Yemen.

BBC News Arabic interviewed in Cairo four of the six journalists: Hisham Al-Yousifi, Haitham Al-Shehab, Hisham Tarmoum and Essam Balghith.

The journalists talked about the circumstances of their arrest, the reality of the press today in Yemen, and the fate of their other four colleagues who are still in prison and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Haitham Al-Shihab says: “We were covering the situation in Yemen after most of the journalists left for fear of the Houthis’ oppression, who seized the capital in September 2014. But on the 26th of March 2015, the Houthis started chasing journalists with the start of the coalition forces. The Saudi-led bombing of the capital.

Al-Shihab adds that due to the lack of internet and electricity service as a result of the bombing, he and his nine colleagues sought refuge in a hotel in the capital, Sana’a, to work until they were arrested.

Al-Shehab believes that their arrest came as a result of the Houthis’ desire to “obscure what is happening in the capital after controlling it.”

The ten journalists were referred to trial and faced charges that include “spreading malicious news that disturbs peace and public order and working for the enemy,” according to the list of charges, which they all denied.

While the six journalists were released in October, their other four colleagues on death row: Abd al-Khaleq Omran, Akram al-Walidy, Harith Hamid, and Tawfiq al-Mansoori continue to face an unknown fate.

Inside the prison

Issam Belghith noted that he is receiving psychological support and medical care in Cairo.

Belghith indicated that during their imprisonment he and his companions moved between six prisons, the worst of which, according to them, was the Political Security prison, or what is now known as the Security and Intelligence Service.

“We were subjected to ill-treatment in all of these prisons, and we were subjected to torture, deprivation of food, and the illusion of physical liquidation,” Belghith said.

The BBC was unable to confirm the veracity of these allegations.

“The aim of arresting us and prosecuting us was to send a threatening message to suppress journalists and prevent them from performing their duty. We heard that there was a Houthi security list of about 100 journalists, most of whom fled outside the country,” Balghith added.

In March 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists had expressed concern about the safety of Yemeni journalists amid the escalation of violence in the country. At the time, the committee stated that “Houthi forces raided media windows, detained journalists, and blocked news websites.”

Journalists gathered to denounce the killing of TV reporter Adib Al-Jinani, who was killed in an attack on Aden Airport in Taiz.

“We went on hunger strike for 43 days in protest of our detention and we were on the verge of death, but that did not stop them from continuing to imprison us, and they even transferred us to solitary cells as a punishment for our hunger strike,” Balghith said.

But the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Information of the Houthis, Nasr Al-Din Amer, in a telephone interview with the BBC, denies the allegations that the ten journalists have been subjected to torture, accusing them of “spreading false news and supporting armed action against government forces in Sana’a.”

Nasr El-Din added, “We do not accept any cases of torture inside prisons for anyone, and we always inspect to make sure of that. There are no cases of torture because it is forbidden by Sharia.”

“More dangerous than traitors and mercenaries”

For his part, Al-Yousifi refers to the atmosphere of incitement that prevailed at that period and which led to their imprisonment, saying, “In his famous speech in September 2015, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi – the leader of the Ansar Allah group – said that among the media, who are the most dangerous.” Against this country of traitors and mercenaries, the security fighters.”

And his colleague Balghith adds: “We always received threats inside the prison, the Houthis used to tell us that we would meet the fate of Abdullah Qabel and Al-Eizari.”

The “Reporters Without Borders” organization had held the Houthi group responsible for the killing of the two journalists, Abdullah Qabel, the correspondent of the Shabab Al-Yaman channel and the Balqis channel, and Youssef Al-Eizri, the correspondent of the Suhail TV channel, after it detained them in a weapons store, which in turn was bombed by the Arab coalition forces in the southern Dhamar region. country in 2015.

exit deal

Although they were acquitted by the Ansar Allah Criminal Court in Sana’a in April 2020, the six journalists did not exit until October of the same year as part of a deal between the government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis, under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations It included the exchange of more than a thousand prisoners and detainees between the two sides.

The four journalists say they were flown to Seiyun airport in Hadramawt as part of the deal.

They also assert that they had to sign official papers not to practice journalism again in order to be released.

Appeals for the release of their colleagues

The released journalists appealed to the United Nations to intervene for the release of their four colleagues.

In a letter sent by the journalists to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, and his special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, they said, “We are writing this letter to you as we visit hospitals and medical clinics in Egypt every day for treatment for what befell us during the kidnapping period, while the Houthis continue to kidnap and prosecute four from our fellow journalists.

The journalists pointed out that the health condition of their colleagues deteriorated due to what they called “the torture they are still subjected to in light of the deliberate neglect of health care by the Houthis.”

For his part, Hisham Tarmoum warned that Harith Hamid is about to lose his sight in his prison cell, after his medical glasses were denied him, according to him.

The four journalists confirm that their fate has become unknown, as they cannot return to their motherland “for fear of being killed” by the Houthi group, and at the same time they do not like stability in Egypt, where there are no jobs or salaries, and they blame the Yemeni government for its negligence in their rights and the rights of their relatives who They left behind in Yemen.

In light of these difficult circumstances, journalists are studying the idea of ​​political asylum in one of the European countries after they were stranded in Cairo.

BBC Arabic *


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