In a televised execution attended by thousands of Yemenis, a man convicted of raping and killing a toddler was placed face down in a public square in Yemen’s capital on Monday and shot with an automatic weapon at point-blank range.
While public executions are not new in Yemen, the broadcast of this one, conducted by the Houthi rebels who have controlled the capital for more than two years in a calamitous civil war, was somewhat unusual.
The egregiousness of the offense and public outrage over it may have played a role in the decision to show the execution on TV, as a way of mollifying the victim’s family and portraying the Houthis as vigilant against crime.
The condemned man, identified by Yemen’s Saba News Agency as Mohammed Saad Mujahid al-Maghrabi, 41, was found guilty by a Houthi-run court of the attack on Rana al-Matan, a 3-year-old girl.
Court officials, the victim’s family and news agencies were invited to attend, Saba reported. It said a crowd numbering in the thousands had converged around the clearing in Sana’s Tahrir Square where the execution was carried out. Many spectators held cellphone cameras aloft to record it. Some were seen perched on telephone poles and rooftops.
News photographs showed Mr. Maghrabi lying on his stomach with hands bound behind him as a uniformed soldier or police officer standing right over him opened fire.
A Reuters dispatch from Sana quoted Yahya al-Matari, the father of the girl, as saying afterward that he felt justice had been served. “This is the first day in my life,” he was quoted as saying. “I am relieved now.”
The child was killed on June 25, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, a joyous Muslim holiday that signifies the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, is overwhelmingly Muslim.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in the war between the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, and a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as a regional threat. The war’s impact also has placed much of the country on the verge of famine and contributed to a cholera outbreak that has sickened roughly 400,000 Yemenis.