Yemeni model jailed for indecency by rebel authorities

Related Topics
Image source, Intisar al-Hammadi
Image caption,
Intisar al-Hammadi has worked as an actress and model

A Yemeni actress and model has been jailed for five years by rebel authorities after being convicted of "indecency".

Intisar al-Hammadi, 20, alleged that she was physically and verbally abused after being detained by Houthi forces in Sanaa in February, and that she had to sign documents while blindfolded.

Three other women arrested alongside her were also handed prison terms.

Human Rights Watch said the case was "marred with irregularities and abuse".

The Houthis, who control much of western Yemen, have been fighting a war against pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition since 2015.

Houthi-run news agency Saba reported that a court in Sanaa found Ms Hammadi guilty of charges including committing an indecent act and possessing drugs.

She and one of the other three women were given five-year prison terms, it said. The others were jailed for three years and one year respectively.

A lawyer for the four women, Khalid al-Kamal, told the Associated Press that they would appeal.

Human Rights Watch's Yemen researcher, Afrah Nasser, tweeted that the sentences were "unfair and politically motivated".

Ms Hammadi, who has a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother, has worked as a model for several years and acted in two Yemeni TV series. She sometimes appeared in photographs posted online without a headscarf, defying strict societal norms in the conservative Muslim country.

"Her phone was confiscated, and her modelling photos were treated like an act of indecency and therefore she was a prostitute [in the eyes of Houthi authorities]," he added.

According to HRW, Ms Hammadi told a group of human rights defenders and a lawyer who were allowed to visit her in prison that she was forced by interrogators to sign a document while blindfolded. The document was reportedly a "confession" to several offences.

In March, Ms Hammadi was transferred to the Central Prison in Sanaa, where guards called her a "whore" and "slave", because of her dark skin and Ethiopian descent, her lawyer said.

You may also be interested in:

Media caption,
Yemen and the Arab Spring: ‘It was a major women’s revolution’

More on this story