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Rebel Leader Convicted in Yemen

  • Heather Murdock

About 200,000 people have fled the war in northern Yemen since fighting first broke out in 2004, most are women and children

About 200,000 people have fled the war in northern Yemen since fighting first broke out in 2004, most are women and children

In Yemen, Yahya al-Houthi, the political leader of a northern rebellion, who now lives in Germany, was sentenced to prison in a Yemeni court on Saturday. This comes as both sides report intensified fighting, despite recent promises for peace.

For six years now, war has raged in northern Yemen. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the region, and casualties- military and civilian- continue to mount on both sides. The Houthis, a fiercely anti-Western Shi'ite militia, say they are defending themselves against political and religious oppression. The Yemeni government says it is defending the country from terrorist gangs.

On Saturday, Yahya al-Houthi, a former parliamentarian and the brother of Abdul Malek al-Houthi, the rebel army's military leader, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in organizing and leading the militia. But Yemeni Political analyst Ali Saif Hassan says the leader will not be extradited from Germany to serve his time in a Yemeni jail. He says the conviction is political move, and tool the government may use in negotiations with the Houthi army.

They might use it, they might use it first for him not to come back," said Hassan. "Or they say, okay, we can take that sentence from him if there is something in return.

And while both sides say they are trying to negotiate, rebels report air strikes bringing hundreds of Saudi rockets down on the region, and killing women and children. The Yemeni government claims that 20 soldiers were killed in a Houthi ambush on Friday.

The government also claims to have offered a time line to Abdul Malek al-Houthi for ending war, but is waiting for a reply. But Hassan says that the end of the war, will not mean security for northern Yemenis because much of the region has been destroyed.

Now people working to stop the war, but nobody is working to build the peace. Building peace is much different from stopping the war," he said.

But for some Yemenis, the conviction of Yahya al-Houthi is a sign that the government is wrapping up the war that has plagued the country for so long.

At his friends' clothing shop in an Old City market eighteen-year-old Hassan al-Udaini says he is glad al-Houthi was convicted, but wishes the sentence was death, not imprisonment.

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