Four Yemeni journalists finally freed after being held hostage for eight years
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the release of four Yemeni journalists who were held hostage for eight years by Houthi rebels in Sanaa and had been sentenced to death. RSF calls for the release of all other journalists detained in Yemen and hopes that these four, who were included in a prisoner swap with Yemen’s internationally recognised government, will be able to resume working safely
The four journalists – Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfik al-Mansouri, Hareth Homaid and Akram al-Walidi – were among the newly released prisoners who alighted from a Red Cross plane on 16 April on Marib, a city 200 km east of Sanaa that is controlled by the internationally recognised government. Held hostage by the Houthis since 2015, sentenced to death on spying charges and tortured, they were finally reunited with their families.
Their release was part of an exchange of nearly 900 prisoners between the Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels and the official government, which is recognised by the international community and is backed by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The exchange was agreed under UN auspices in Geneva on 20 March, exactly ten days after Iran and Saudi Arabia restored diplomatic relations.
“We have been awaiting this day for years. We welcome their release, which serves as a reminder of the extent to which the freedom of journalists too often depends on political dealings at work in their country and rarely on the work they carry out. We wish them a speedy recovery and call for the release of all other journalists detained in Yemen.”
Confirming what RSF reported in December 2022, Al-Mansouri said he was systematically tortured by his jailers while in captivity. “The last time was on 20 August 2022,” he told journalists. “We are emerging from hell.” The four journalists were cut off from the world for the entire eight years. None of them was allowed to speak with members of his family.
Abducted in Sanaa on 9 June 2015, they were accused of “creating and secretly running several websites and pages through the Internet and social networks (...) in which they posted false, malicious and disturbing news, information and rumours.” A Houthi court sentenced them to death on 11 April 2020 on charges of spying for Saudi Arabia.
Amran edited the Al-Islah Online website and ran the Yemen Revolution Press, an agency created in 2011 that brought together several media outlets. Both Humaid, who reporting Houthi abuses and Al-Mansouri, a former reporter for the Al-Masdar daily worked for the Yemen Revolution Press. Al-Walidi supervised the staff at the Alrabie-ye.net website and the official news agency SABA.
The Houthi rebels initially agree to include the four journalists in a prisoner swap in 2021, but changed their minds at the last moment, preferring to keep them as bargaining chips.
Five other journalists and media contributors – including Mohamed Al Salahi, Muhammad Ali Al-Junaid, Nabil Al-Sadawi and Walid Al-Matari – are still held hostage by the Houthis.