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.
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.
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.
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.