Yemeni fashion model Entissar Al Hammadi
Yemeni fashion model Entissar Al Hammadi Image Credit: Twitter

Cairo: A Yemeni court, controlled by Iran-aligned Al Houthi rebels, sentenced fashion model Entissar Al Hammadi to five years in prison, rights activists have said.

Al Hamadi was detained last February at a security checkpoint west of the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sana’a while she was on her way to a photo session. Later, she was put on trial allegedly for committing public indecency.

The court this week handed down similar sentencing to two other girls and one year to a fourth girl in the same case after what rights advocates said was a mock trial.

The Yemeni government condemned the verdicts and described the charges as trumped-up.

“Illegal rulings were to cover up abduction by terrorist militia of artist Intisar Al Hammadi &her colleagues, forcibly disappearing, psychologically & physically torturing & defaming them, following attempts to lure them to work in prostitution network &spy on political &media figures,” Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al Eryani said on Twitter.

He urged the UN, the US, human rights organisations and women’s rights groups to pressure the rebels into releasing Al Hammadi, her colleagues and all other detained women.

Last May, the rights group Amnesty International denounced Al Hammadi’s arbitrary detention.

“While detained, she was interrogated while blindfolded, physically and verbally abused, subjected to racist insults and forced to ‘confess’ to several offences, including drug possession and prostitution,” the watchdog said in a statement.

“The Houthi de facto authorities have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges – to silence or punish critics, activists, journalists and members of religious minorities – as well as subjecting them to torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” said Lynn Maalouf, the deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Al Houthis plunged Yemen into a devastating war after they toppled the internationally recognised government there and overran parts of the impoverished country including Sana’a in late 2014.