Yemeni trial of MP Yahya al-Hawthi begins in absentia

Judge Muhsen Alwan at the trial of Shiite rebel leader Yahya al-Hawthi in Sanaa on Oct. 26. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Judge Muhsen Alwan at the trial of Shiite rebel leader Yahya al-Hawthi in Sanaa on Oct. 26. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

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SANAA — On Monday, Oct. 26, the Yemeni government began a trial in absentia of Yemeni parliamentarian Yahya al-Hawthi on a series of charges, including organising an armed gang and inciting rebellion.

Judge Muhsen Alwan agreed to try Al-Hawthi, who is considered a fugitive from justice, after hearing a report by the chief criminal prosecutor of the Secretariat, Saeed al-Akel, stating that considerable efforts to track down the defendant had been made.

Al-Hawthi is also facing charges of plotting to assassinate a number of local and foreign diplomats. He organised a gang with the intention of toppling the current republican government and restoring royal clerical rule by force.

Al-Akel said, "Yahya Badr Adeen al-Hawthi participated in the formation of an armed terrorist gang and led it from 2004 to 2009 to carry out subversive and criminal acts in a number of places throughout the Yemeni Republic and its capital of Sanaa. He also prepared the weapons, ammunition, explosives, tools, communications and transportation equipment required for these operations."

Al-Akel also presented evidence that the defendant worked to recruit young people to the gang and taught them to form secret affiliated cells, incited people against the state and the republican system, called for the return of the caliphate and committed a number of other crimes.

Al-Hawthi has denied all charges against him and states that he refuses to recognise the Yemeni regime, which he describes as a dictatorship, and will refuse to recognise any decision issued by the court.

Initiating his trial became possible only after one-third of Yemeni parliamentarians agreed to withdraw Al-Hawthi’s parliamentary immunity on Oct. 11. The fugitive leader is currently living in Germany.

Yahya al-Hawthi is the brother of Hussein al-Hawthi, a rebel leader who was killed in a 2004 battle. Rebel forces are now under the leadership of Hussein al-Hawthi's son, Abd al-Malek, and have been involved in clashes against government forces since 2004.