Yemen’s Houthi rebels execute nine over senior official’s death in air strike

Yemen’s Houthi rebels execute nine over senior official’s death in air strike
Police troopers stand guard next to men convicted of involvement in the killing of a senior Houthi official Saleh al-Samad before their execution at Tahrir Square in Sanaa (AP)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels say they have executed nine people for their alleged involvement in the killing of a senior official in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition more than three years ago.

The public executions by firing squad were carried out in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa, according to the Iranian-backed Houthis who distributed photos apparently showing the executions.

The executions took place despite repeated calls by rights groups and lawyers. They said the trial held in a rebel-controlled court where the nine were convicted and sentenced to death was flawed.

Soldiers stand guard during the execution (AP)

The nine were among more than 60 people the Houthis accused of involvement in the targeted killing of Saleh al-Samad in April 2018. Former US president Donald Trump was also accused, according to court documents obtained by the Associated Press, along with Western, Israeli and Gulf officials.

The Houthis accused the nine of spying for the Saudi-led coalition.

Mr al-Samad, who held the post of president in the Houthi-backed political body, was killed in an air strike in the coastal city of Hodeida.

The nine, including a 17-year-old boy, were arrested months after his killing. They had been held for months in undisclosed places where they suffered inhuman treatment, according to Abdel-Majeed Sabra, a Yemeni lawyer representing one of the people executed.

Hundreds of people, mostly Houthis and their supporters, attended the executions, which were also broadcast on big screens early in Saturday in Tahrir Square in the capital of Sanaa.

Police troopers stand around bags containing the bodies of the nine men (AP)

The executions and their display caused outrage across the country, including Sanaa, where people refrain from criticising the rebels for fear of reprisals.

Relatives of the executed expressed outrage at the punishment and its display. “What I would say. I can’t believe what has happened. This is madness and a crime,” Abdel-Rahman Noah, a brother of one of the executed, told AP.

Another relative said she did not expect the Houthis to go through with the executions. “We were shocked. We thought that they were just threatening,” she said tearfully. She spoke on condition of anonymity.

The nine wore sky blue prison uniforms with their hands bound behind their backs. Masked guards led them to an open area and forced them to lie down on their stomachs. Another officer with a rifle shot them in their backs.

The men were convicted of involvement in the killing of a senior Houthi official (AP)

One of the executed appeared scared while awaiting his turn to be shot. An armed Houthi was seen holding him tight, so he would not fall.

Several rights groups, including the American Centre for Justice, which follows human rights abuses in Yemen, had called on Friday for the UN to intervene to stop the executions.

The groups said the trial “included flagrant violations of fair trial guarantees and depriving individuals of providing sufficient defences”.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when the Houthis swept across much of the north and seized Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government into exile.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war the following year on the side of the government.

The conflict has killed more than 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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