March 27, 2020
A wave of local and international discontent forced Houthis to retract the order to execute the Baha’is leader in Yemen, Hamed Kamal bin Haydara. This came amid calls by Yemeni human rights activists for the Iran-backed group to release thousands of those it persecuted.
Earlier this week, a Sanaa court had affirmed Haydara’s death sentence. The verdict also ordered the confiscation of the leader’s assets.
Mahdi al-Mashat, the head of the Houthi political movement in Yemen, announced on Tuesday the release of all Baha’is faith members imprisoned by the violent organization.
In a statement on al-Masirah TV, the Houthi leader declared the release of members of the persecuted religious minority group, including Haydara.
In an attempt to whitewash the group’s tainted image, al-Mashat said that Houthis will form a follow-up committee to check on prisoners and implement a plan to release all political prisoners, should they not be detained for other causes.
Since waging a nationwide coup in September 2014, the Houthi group has exploited the courts under its jurisdiction to issue hundreds of death sentences and jail sentences against its political and doctrinal opponents. Until this day, thousands are held in Houthi detention centers without trial.
The Baha’i International Community (BIC) 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 Houthis 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.”