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Baha’i prisoners in Yemen to be released by Houthi government

Detainees are being released at Central Prison in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on 30 September, 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]
Detainees are being released from a prison in Yemen 30 September, 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

The Houthi-led government in Yemen has ordered the release of all prisoners who follow the Baha’i faith, the President of the Supreme Political Council, Mahdi Al-Mashat, announced on TV yesterday. Furthermore, there is a pardon for prisoner of conscience Hamed Bin Haydara.

On Sunday, the Court of Appeal in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, upheld the death sentence imposed on Haydara in January 2018, following what Amnesty International described as a “grossly unfair trial” that lasted almost five years after which he was found guilty of spying. He was not in court at the weekend.

“This decision, taken in Hamid Haydara’s absence, is only the latest development in what has been a flagrantly-flawed trial and indicates the lengths to which the Houthis are willing to go to consolidate their control,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.

READ: A third of all Saudi coalition air strikes in Yemen targeted civilians 

The Baha’i International Community (BIC) condemned the death sentence, it was reported by the group’s official news site. “At a time when the international community is battling a global health crisis, it is incomprehensible that the authorities in Sanaa have upheld a death sentence against an innocent individual solely because of his beliefs instead of focusing on safeguarding the population, including Baha’is,” said Diane Ala’i, UN Representative of the BIC.

However, the Community has welcomed news of the pardon and called for its immediate implementation. It is believed that there are six other Baha’is to be released along with Haydara. The community has also urged the National Salvation Government to drop charges against 20 other adherents of the faith who were indicted in 2018, and to return assets belonging to the community which were seized by the Yemeni authorities.

Baha’i institutions in the country should be allowed to function normally, insisted the BIC. “Baha’is should be permitted to practice their faith freely, in keeping with the universal principles of freedom of religion or belief. The Baha’is of Yemen have and will continue to contribute to the life of their country and their fellow citizens.”

The Baha’i faith originated in Iran in 1844 as a reinterpretation and offshoot of Shia Islam and is considered one of the most persecuted religious minorities, not only in Iran where it is the largest non-Muslim minority and is currently not recognised, but also in Yemen and Egypt. There are an estimated 6 million Baha’is around the world.

READ: UAE-backed forces block medical equipment sent to fight COVID-19 in Yemen

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