Related Topics

  • Yemen crisis

Image source, Intisar al-HammadiImage 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.

  • Yemen crisis: Why is there a war?
  • Outcry over executions of nine men by Yemen rebels

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".

The Yemeni government's Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani wrote that they were examples of the "thousands of crimes and violations by terrorist Houthi militia against Yemeni women".

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 lawyer told Human Rights Watch in June that she was travelling in a car with the other women in Sanaa when Houthi forces stopped it and arrested them.

"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:

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Yemen and the Arab Spring: ‘It was a major women’s revolution’