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Yemen government to free 50 Houthi detainees in exchange for prominent politician

July 3, 2024 at 8:59 pm

Security soldiers guard while conflict detainees await their freeing in a unilateral initiative taken by the Houthi group in Sana’a, Yemen on May 26, 2024 [Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images]

The Yemeni government said, on Wednesday, it will release 50 Houthis in exchange for a prominent political figure held by the group, Anadolu Agency reports.

“An agreement has been reached with the Houthi group to release Mohammed Qahtan in exchange for 50 Houthis,” government negotiator, Majed Fadail told Anadolu.

Qahtan is a prominent figure in the Islah Party, Yemen’s largest Islamic party, and one of four individuals listed in UN Security Council Resolution 2216 of 2015, which mandates the release of these individuals by the Houthi group.

He was detained by the Houthis on 5 April, 2015, shortly after the group placed him under house arrest. His family remains unaware of his whereabouts or condition.

Houthi leader, Abdel-Qadir Al-Mortada, confirmed reaching a deal with the government to free 50 Houthi rebels in exchange for Qahtan.

“The agreement includes handling over 50 bodies of the group’s fighters if Qahtan is dead,” he said, without further details.

The Yemeni government and Houthis launched a new round of UN-sponsored prisoner swap negotiations in Oman on Sunday.

Since their consultations in Stockholm in 2018, the Yemeni government and the Houthis have presented lists containing over 15,000 prisoners and detainees, although the exact number remains uncertain.

In April 2023, facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN, the two rivals exchanged around 900 details after negotiations in Switzerland.

Yemen has seen relative calm since April 2022 in a conflict that began nearly a decade ago between forces loyal to the legitimate government and the Houthi group, which has controlled various provinces and cities, including the capital Sana’a, since 2014.

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