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Houthi rebels arrest Yemen's ex-minister of culture

The former minister has been critical of the rebel group [Twitter]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2020

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Former Minister of Culture Khaled al-Ruwaishan has been arrested by Houthi rebels in Sanaa, his family confirmed on Sunday.

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Yemen, Houthis,
Yemen's Houthi rebels detained a former minister of culture, according to local reports.

The rebels arrested Khaled al-Ruwaishan on Sunday, his son confirmed in a Facebook post.

"The Houthis abducted my father half an hour ago," Waddah al-Ruwaishan said in his post.

Local reports confirmed the rebels made the arrest at the home of the former official in Sanaa, though no information on his whereabouts has been provided.

Al-Ruwaishan remained in the capital even after the rebels captured it in 2014 and has continued to criticise all parties involved in the conflict, including the Houthis, in his writings.

The arrest drew widespread criticism across the country, including among officials from the Saudi-based internationally-recognised government of Yemen.

Former prime minister and current advisor to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi Ahmed bin Dagher slammed the kidnapping of the "great poet" and "icon of the free word" in a Facebook post on Sunday.

"There is no place in Yemen for this new form of slavery, even if it wraps itself in the cloak of religion," Dagher said, in an apparent dig at the rebels.

Meanwhile, Minister of Human Rights Mohammed Askar condemned the arrest of the former official, calling on "everyone to pressure the militia to release him unconditionally".

The Houthis overran the capital and other major cities across the country in 2014, sending the internationally-recognised Hadi government out of the country and paving the way for the 2015  Saudi-led coalition intervention in Yemen.

The ensuing war has killed more than 100,000 and plunged the Arab world's poorest country into what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian crisis.

Since then, thousands of critics have been arrested, tortured and forcibly disappeared by the rebels, prompting outrage from rights groups across the world.

Yemen ranks 168th out of 180 countries on the 2019 World Press Freedom Report.

Last week, a prominent journalists' organisation has slammed a recent decision by Yemen's Houthi rebels to sentence four journalists to death, according a statement by the group.

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] called on the rebels to release Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri, all of which were sentenced to death in a court proceeding in the rebel-held capital.

"At a time when Yemen needs accurate news and information more than ever, this sentence is truly dismaying and will put the Houthis beyond the pale internationally should it stand," CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad said.

"We urge the Houthis to immediately reverse this decision and release all journalists in their custody."

The journalists, who have been detained by the rebels for five years, were sentenced "on charges of treason and spying for foreign states", according to a copy of an indictment.

CPJ's statement also shed light on another six journalists who were sentenced to prison and three years of so-called police supervision.

The statement identified them as Hesham Tarmoum, Hisham al-Yousifi, Essam Balghaith, Haitham al-Shihab, Hassan Anaab, and Salah Al-Qaedy, according to information from the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate.

The court decisions were handed down without the presence of any lawyers for the journalists, according to the journalists’ lawyer, Abdel Majeed Farea Sabra, who noted the judge had barred them from the court since January 27.

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