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Houthi authorities free 6 Baha’is jailed in Sana’a

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Jose Kalathil

NEW DELHI: Six prominent Baha’is imprisoned by the Houthi authorities in Sana’a have been released. According to the Baha’i International Community in Geneva, they were released on Friday.

Following their release, the Community has called for the lifting of all charges against these persons and the other Baha’is charged, the return of their assets and properties, and, most importantly, the safeguarding of the rights of all Baha’is in Yemen to live according to their beliefs without risk of persecution.

“We welcome the releases today yet remain gravely concerned,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community. “As Yemen’s search for durable, societal peace continues, Baha’is must be able — like all Yemenis — to practice their faith safely and freely, in keeping with the universal principles of freedom of religion or belief. This is not possible until the charges are lifted,” said the Representative.

“The Baha’i International Community expresses its gratitude to the UN Special Envoy for Yemen as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We also thank those governments and non-governmental organizations that have provided their support throughout this process,” added Diane Ala’i.

The six Baha’is — Mr. Hamed bin Haydara, Mr. Waleed Ayyash, Mr. Akram Ayyash, Mr. Kayvan Ghaderi, Mr. Badiullah Sanai, and Mr. Wael al-Arieghie — were wrongfully imprisoned in Sana’a for several years on the basis of their beliefs and made to face a series of baseless charges.

Earlier this month, the European Foreign Ministers and officials had called on the Houthi authorities to implement the decision to release the imprisoned Baha’is in Yemen, which was announced over three months ago.

A joint statement by the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Germany and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom published on 1 July 2020 outlined the urgent actions needed for bringing peaceful change to Yemen, including the immediate release of six Baha’is imprisoned solely for their beliefs. The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs in Luxembourg also made a statement on 6 July 2020 calling for the release of the Baha’is, stating that he “continues to monitor the situation of these detainees closely together with the United Nations and the European Union”.

In the joint statement, the Foreign Ministers affirmed that they have “a global responsibility to ease the suffering of the Yemenis”, thus calling on the Houthis, among other things, to “implement their announcement to release members of the Baha’i faith.” The Luxembourg Foreign Minister similarly stated that he was “concerned by the continued incarceration of six Baha’is by the Houthis in Yemen, despite the fact that their release had been announced on 25th March.”

In March, Mr. Mahdi al-Mashat, the President of the Houthi Supreme Political Council in Sana’a, ordered the unconditional release of all Baha’i prisoners and a pardon for Mr. Hamed bin Haydara, one of the imprisoned Baha’is sentenced to death for his beliefs.

In addition to the statements, other European officials also had joined their voices calling for the release of the Baha’is. This includes the Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the Netherlands, Jos Douma, German Member of Parliament, Heribert Hirte, and UK Member of Parliament, Rehman Chishti.

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