"Prison Bars" by Michael Coghlan / CC BY-SA 2.0

Yemen Keeps Religious Minority Members Locked Up

May 29, 2020

By Afrah Nasser

Houthi authorities in Yemen continue to detain several members of the Baha’i religious minority group despite a senior Houthi leader having ordered their release in March. The detainees are being held solely because of their religion and include Hamad Kamal Haydara, who was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to death in 2018.

The March 25 public statement by Mahdi al-Mashat, president of the Houthi-run Supreme Political Council, did not specify the number of the detainees to be released. However, several sources told Human Rights Watch that the release order included Haydara and at least five other people. The Houthi armed group has controlled the capital, Sanaa, and much of Yemen’s northwest since September 2014.

The Yemeni Initiative to Defend Baha’is (YIDB), the only human rights group defending Baha’is’ rights in Yemen, said in a recent statement that unidentified Houthi officials have blocked al-Mashat’s order from being carried out. The group alleges that the Houthi-controlled Specialized Criminal Court in Sanaa has demanded conditions – including collateral payments known as “commercial guarantees” – to carry out the release. But even after the detainees’ families submitted these guarantees, the court did not free the Baha’i detainees.

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