Yemeni model subjected to 'unfair trial' by Houthis: HRW
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has slammed the "unfair trial" of Yemeni model Entisar Al-Hammadi, who has been detained for several months and subjected to physical and verbal abuse by Houthi rebels before her court appearances in June.
Al-Hammadi, who is of Ethiopian and Yemeni heritage, appeared before the West Municipality (Sanaa) court on apparent charges of indecent acts and drug possession on June 6 and 9.
Her lawyer was denied access to court documents ahead of the trial, suspended from appearing in court in May, and was harassed by Houthi forces when out in public, according to reports.
"The Houthi authorities' unfair trial against Entisar al-Hammadi, on top of the arbitrary arrest and abuse against her in detention, is a stark reminder of the abuse that women face at the hands of authorities throughout Yemen,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
The US watchdog called on authorities to respect Al-Hammadi's right to a fair legal process and "drop charges that are so broad and vague that they are arbitrary".
Houthi authorities are carrying out an unfair trial of a Yemeni actress and model. She has been arbitrarily detained since February 20, 2021. The case has been marred with irregularities and abuse. https://t.co/TLUv7TqQvq pic.twitter.com/M25uSIRQ0l— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 30, 2021
The model was arrested with three others by Houthi forces at a checkpoint in Sanaa in February 2021, said Al-Hammadi's lawyer.
Afterward, she was held in the city's criminal investigations building for ten days without access to legal representation or family.
Close relatives were forced to stay silent about her detainment on the condition this would lead to her release, according to reports.
Al-Hammadi was later transferred to the Central Prison in Sanaa, where she was subjected to racist insults, forced to "confess" to multiple offences, and made to sign documents when blindfolded during interrogation, said HRW.
Plans to carry out a "virginity test" on Al-Hammadi - a form of sexual violence and violation of human rights - were halted following a statement from Amnesty International, according to her lawyer.
When a group of human rights defenders and lawyers were allowed to visit Al-Hammadi in prison in May, she told them there was no evidence against her and that authorities offered to release her if she helped to "trap their enemies" with "sex and drugs". She rejected the offer.
Five other women are imprisoned alongside Al-Hammadi on similar charges but do not want to publicise their situation for fear of harassment and harm to their families, the rights group reported.
"Al-Hammadi is just one of an unknown number of Yemeni female detainees who are arbitrarily detained and require immediate protection and justice," said Page.