YEMEN - SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi army torturing Yemeni citizens?

A Washington-based Saudi organisation has released shocking video footage of what they say is Saudi soldiers torturing Yemeni citizens suspected of being Houthi rebels. Read more and see the clip...

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A Washington-based Saudi organisation has released shocking video footage of what they say is Saudi soldiers torturing Yemeni citizens suspected of being Houthi rebels.

"Wasim", a website or self-described "information agency" which is often critical of the Saudi government, published the video on Feb. 4. A number of the torturers seen in the clip are dressed in camouflage and one of them is wearing a sergeant's uniform. One of the detainees, whose hands and feet are tied, is heard shouting: "I swear to God I'm innocent". His torturer then asks if he's of Yemeni nationality, to which he answers yes.  

When contacted by FRANCE 24, Ali al-Ahmed, a Shiite and opponent of the Saudi regime, who runs the Wasim website, told us that he obtained the video from "a source close to the military".

He thinks that the video was filmed in south Saudi Arabia, near the Yemeni border, in the last two months. He draws attention to the attire of one of the men (seen between 25' and 40' seconds), who is wearing the Saudi Al-Hilal football team shirt, noticeable because of the Mobily telecoms operator logo (sponsors of the team).  

Al-Ahmed believes that the footage was filmed by the Saudi army's "Islamic Orientation Service" - which is Sunni - as a demonstration of their dominance over the Zaidi Shiite rebels (known as Houthis after the surname of the founder).

Saudi Arabia's offensive against Houthi rebels was launched in November 2009 after a Saudi border guard was killed by rebels who had infiltrated the country.

Saudi Minister of Defence Prince Khaled bin Sultan says that the Saudi army hasn't tortured any Houthi rebels, but spoke instead of the 109 Saudi soldiers killed since Saudi troops began pushing the Houthi trespassers back into Yemen. Contacted by FRANCE 24, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence said to disregard the torture video.

Since 2004 the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels have been fighting in the northern provinces of the country, which border Saudi Arabia. The rebels say that the government in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, does not recognise their Houthi identity (a branch of Shiite Islam); the Yemeni government claims that the rebels receive aid from Iran, although avoids blaming Tehran directly.

“The majority of Yemenis that fall into the hands of the Saudi army are civilians”

Mohammad al-Saeedi is from Quatif, a majority Shiite city in the east of Saudi Arabia. A former journalist, he now works in the transport sector.

The majority of Yemenis that fall into the hands of the Saudi army are civilians who have crossed the border into Saudi Arabia illegally in trying to flee the war in the northern provinces of Yemen. Most of them are trying to reach relatives who live in southern Saudi Arabia.

The problem is that in fighting these rebels the Saudi army is motivated by ideological and religious beliefs. Following in the footsteps of Mohammed al-Arifi [a fervent Sunni cleric], Salafist [strict Sunni] sheikhs are actually taking part in the frontline fighting - encouraging soldiers to fight for religious reasons and to boost troop morale."

Sheikh Mohammed al-Arifi on the frontline. Video posted by "ya3eoni", Jan. 8, 2010.

Rebels in the hands of the Saudi army

Video posted on YouTube by "digitaltimedist", Dec. 9, 2009.

Prince Khaled bin Sultan says that the Saudi army has captured 1,500 people during its operations and that between 300 and 400 of those are rebels; the rest, traffickers who cross the border illegally with goods.