A court run by Yemen's Iran-backed rebels on Sunday upheld a five-year sentence against a female actor and one of her companions who were convicted of committing an indecent act and having drugs in her possession, her lawyer said.
The arrest of Intisar al-Hammadi and the three other women in February 2021 — as well as the court proceedings against them — have been widely criticized by international rights groups. The case has mirrored widespread Houthi repression and crackdown on women in areas they control in war-torn Yemen.
Al-Hammadi and one of the women were first sentenced in November 2021 to five years. The other two were handed one and three years in prison, respectively.
The Court of Appeals in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa upheld the sentences against al-Hammadi and Yousra al-Nashri, who was also handed a five-year sentence, according to lawyer Khalid al-Kamal, who represents all four women.
Al-Hammadi, who is also a model, was born to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother. She has worked as a model for four years and acted in two Yemeni soap drama series in 2020. She was the sole breadwinner for her four-member family, including her blind father and a disabled brother.
Human Rights Watch has previously criticized the court proceedings as "marred with irregularities and abuse." It said the Houthis confiscated al-Hammadi's phone and "her modeling photos were treated like an act of indecency."
Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 to try to restore the government to power.
In the Houthi-held areas, women who dare dissent, or even enter the public sphere, have become targets in an escalating crackdown by the Iran-backed rebels.