AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Houthi-run court in Sanaa reaffirmed a five-year jail term against Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi on Sunday, Yemeni lawyers and activists said.
Attorney Khaled Al-Kamal, who attended the hearing, told Arab News that the Appeal Court upheld a verdict by another court that sentenced Al-Hammadi to five years in prison on charges of drug possession, drug trafficking, adultery and prostitution, and rejected her attorneys’ requests to release her.
“We’ll file an appeal with the Supreme Court,” Al-Kamal said. “We aren’t going to remain quiet. The judgment is vindictive and not founded on evidence.”
He said after hearing the judgment, Al-Hammadi cried and accused the court of being unjust. Her comment infuriated the judge, who “threatened her with five more years in jail if she didn’t remain silent,” Al-Kamal added.
Al-Hammadi, the daughter of a Yemeni father and Ethiopian mother, was kidnapped from a Sanaa street by the Houthis in February 2021 and forcibly vanished for months until, after intense public and international pressure, they confessed to detaining her.
She had defied the typically conservative upbringing of Yemeni women to follow her goal of becoming a model.
The Houthis first accused her of violating the religious dress code, and later claimed that she was apprehended while operating a prostitution ring and dealing narcotics.
Despite local and international outcries, the Houthis placed her in a secluded cell, threatened to submit her to a virginity test, and subjected her to assault by female captors, which led her attempting suicide.
The Appeal Court’s decision has incited anger toward the Houthi militia and popular support for Al-Hammadi.
“Even if she committed adultery, she should get 100 lashes and be released since she’s unmarried, according to the law,” Al-Kamal said. “I’ve seen other such cases when women accused of adultery got whipped and then freed.”
Ahmed Al-Nabhani, a Yemeni activist based in Sanaa who attended the session on Sunday, slammed the Houthi court’s decision and demanded the release of Al-Hammadi and other kidnapped women.
“I declare my complete support for the artist Entesar Al-Hammadi,” Al-Nabhani said on his Facebook page, urging all forces of conscience and justice in Yemen and throughout the world to step up efforts to free her.
Yemeni activists and lawyers believe that the Houthis increased their mistreatment of Al-Hammadi after her ordeal garnered extensive media attention and worldwide criticism.
Other Yemenis believe that her kidnapping coincided with an increased crackdown on musicians, artists and models by the Houthis.
They have prohibited female university students from interacting with male students, banned women from traveling between Yemeni cities without a male guardian or mahram, and limited women’s access to contraceptives.