AFP noted the group are mostly professionals, including academics, trade unionists and preachers. They are accused of providing information on military targets to the Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, as well as numerous allied militant groups in the country and remnant forces rallied around ousted Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Middle East Eye reported six others were acquitted by the Specialised Criminal Court of First Instance in the capital of Sana’a, where the other 30 were tried.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, told reporters Friday the office had “received credible information suggesting that many of those convicted were subjected to arbitrary or unlawful detention, as well as torture."
Noting that an appeal of the ruling by the condemned was likely, Shamdasani urged the appeals court to consider "the serious allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, and of violations of the fair trial and due process rights of the convicted people," AFP reported.
Middle East Eye noted that, while these are not the first death sentences to be handed down by Houthi courts for espionage, no executions have actually been carried out yet.
The conflict in Yemen began when Houthi rebels from the country’s north drove Hadi’s government from power in a protracted mass upheaval between September 2014 and March 2015. Hadi, who enjoyed the support of Riyadh and other local powers, fled the country and called on the coalition to suppress the Houthi movement.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the brutal fighting as well as by malnutrition and disease caused by both interruptions to trade but most especially by the Saudi-directed blockade of Houthi-controlled ports. Growing popular outrage in the US has pressured Washington to withdraw its support for the coalition, but the Trump administration had adamantly defended its alliance with Riyadh.
While the Saudi military once possessed the advantage in the conflict with its air force and artillery, in recent months the Houthis have seized the initiative, launching drone and missile strikes into southern Saudi Arabia and acquiring anti-air defenses capable of downing US drones.