By Cagri Kosak
ADEN, Yemen (AA) - A criminal court in Yemen’s interim capital Aden on Thursday held the first sessions of a trial in absentia involving 32 top Houthi members, who mounted a coup against the UN-recognized government, according to governmental sources.
On trial is the Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi and 31 other militants alongside him, including the head of the coup government Abdul Aziz bin Habtoor and Mahdi Al-Mashat, who was appointed as Defense Minister of that government.
On Nov. 28, 2016, the Houthis and allied forces of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced from capital Sanaa -- which they captured in 2014 -- the formation of a "national salvation" government.
Headed by Habtoor, a former governor of Yemen’s southern city of Aden, the new government was comprised of 35 ministers, including seven ministers of state and three deputy premiers.
The defendants face trial on eight charges, including endangering the independence of Yemen and plotting a coup against the president and the government.
The next session of the hearing will be held on July 2020.
Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital of Sanaa.
The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis, including civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as millions remain at risk of starvation.
*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz