A Yemeni state security court sentenced the elder brother of a Shiite rebel leader to 15 years in prison on Saturday for supporting the Shiite rebellion in north-western Yemen.

Yahya al-Houthi, the brother of the insurgents’ commander Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, was convicted of “forming a terrorist armed group.” Presiding Judge Muhssein Alwan found Yahya guilty of “stirring up sectarian strife and sedition” through his media remarks supporting the Shiite revolt.

Parliament lifted Yahya’s parliamentary immunity in October to pave the way for his trial. The trial was held in absentia on October 26. Yahya has lived in Germany since 2005.

Government troops have been battling thousands of armed rebels in rugged mountains overlooking the borders with Saudi Arabia since August, in the latest flare-up in the fighting that has raged on and off since mid-2004.

Authorities accuse the Shiite group of seeking to restore the rule of the Zaydi royal family, which was toppled by a republican revolution in 1962.

The Houthis say they are in revolt against government corruption and the Yemeni alliance with the United States.

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