Yemen’s judges went on strike in Sanaa on Saturday, in an attempt to force the Iran-backed Houthi militia to charge those involved in the killing of a senior judge last week, residents said.
Khaled Al-Kamal, a Sanaa-based lawyer who visited three courts on Saturday, told Arab News that they were empty as judges and administrative workers refused to work in a rare protest against the killing, as well as low and unpaid salaries and meddling by powerful Houthi figures.
“Strong efforts are being made to resume work at the courts,” Al-Kamal said.
Judge Mohammed Hamran, a 63-year-old Supreme Court judge in Sanaa, was kidnapped from outside his home on Al-Asbahi street and found dead days later.
The Yemeni government has accused the Houthis of the killing, saying that Hamran had previously ruled against the militia’s looting of both public and private lands and other properties.
The murder has spurred the Yemen Courts Club, an umbrella group for judges around the nation, to declare a temporary suspension of court operations until the Houthis bring the murderers to justice.
The club also accused a Houthi-affiliated journalist, Mohammed Al-Emad, who runs Al-Hawiah TV, of inciting the public to kill the judge by alleging that he was corrupt. They have asked for the channel to be closed down and for charges to be brought against Al-Emad.
The judges also demanded an end to meddling in the judicial system, as well as payment of judges’ salaries, which have not been paid for more than a year.
“The (judicial) authority and its men have not been granted their legitimate right to financial sufficiency. Nor has their dignity, blood, and prestige been respected,” the club said in a statement.
The Houthi security establishment claimed on Friday that they had arrested the men who executed the judge, citing “private” land disputes between the judge and the killers as the reason behind the killing.
But Yemeni officials believe that the Houthis are purging judges who disobey their commands and those who refuse to support their seizure of both public and private lands.
On Thursday, Abdullah Mohammed Al-Kibsi, a former lawmaker and a security official loyal to the Houthis, was gunned down outside his house in Sanaa. The Houthis claimed to have apprehended the murderers and blamed the killing on a family dispute.
Yemenis questioned the Houthis’ claims and pointed to escalating internal rivalry and violence between various Houthi factions, particularly the Hashemite Houthi families from Saada and those who were born and brought up in Sanaa. Al-Kibsi came from a Sanaa-based Hashemite family.
Separately, the Houthis bombarded the western entrance of the densely populated city of Taiz on Saturday for the sixth day in a row, despite local and international calls for a de-escalation.
Several shells fired by the Houthis from positions outside Taiz landed in the Al-Dhabab area —the site of the only road between Taiz and Aden — according to residents. Since last Sunday, the Houthis have been shelling Al-Dhabab in an attempt to seize control of the main road.
Saturday’s shelling occurred just hours after government troops repelled a Houthi attack on their positions in the same area.
The United Nations special envoy for Yemen and a number of other Western envoys condemned the Houthis’ military escalation in Taiz and urged the militia to abide by the UN-brokered truce.