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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Thursday released six prominent members of the Baha’i faith, officials told The National.
The move follows months of mounting pressure from the international community following an announcement in March by the rebels that they were to release the prisoners from a prison in the capital Sanaa.
“The releases are a very encouraging first step. We very much hope that the authorities will also drop all charges against all Bahá’ís in Yemen and work towards building a society in which all can practice their faith safely and freely,” Anthony Vance, Director of the US Bahai Office of Public Affairs, said.
The prisoners billed to be released were Baha'i leader Hamed bin Haydara and another five members of the faith: Waleed Ayyash, Akram Ayyash, Kayvan Ghaderi, Badiullah Sanai and Wael Al Arieghie.
The community says they were wrongfully imprisoned for several years on the basis of their beliefs and made to face a series of baseless charges.
There have been concerns about the treatment of Baha'i prisoners by the Houthis, who have controlled much of northern Yemen and Sanaa since the country's civil war started in 2014.
For years, human rights advocates have decried what they say is unlawful incarceration of the Baha'is and have demanded the minority be granted the right to practice its faith freely.
Diane Ala’i, representative of the Bahai International Community, said they must be able to practice their faith freely and safely.
“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," she said.
Ms Ala'i expressed gratitude to the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for their support.
Updated: July 30, 2020 09:53 PM
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