DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi authorities on Thursday released six Baha’i faith members from prison, where United Nations human rights experts said they had been held as prisoners of conscience because of their beliefs, a Houthi official and Baha’i sources said.
The Baha’i International Community group welcomed the releases and called for the men’s assets to be returned, for all charges against Baha’is in Yemen to be dropped and for Baha’is to live in Yemen without persecution.
Baha’i community sources told Reuters the men had been taken by plane from the Houthi-held capital Sanaa with the intention of being taken eventually outside Yemen.
In 2018, Houthi authorities brought charges against around 20 members of the faith, which regards its 19th-century founder as a prophet. Muslim countries, including Iran where the sect originated, consider it an heretical offshoot of Islam.
Hussein al-Azzi, the Houthi deputy foreign minister, said the six men were released in the hope that “this noble stance would be met with more commitment and respect for the law and with observance of the general order of Yemeni society,” without adding further details.
In March the head of the Houthi political office ordered the release of the six men, but they remained in detention. One of the released men, Hamed bin Haydara had been given a death sentence.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement ousted the internationally recognised Yemeni government from power in Sanaa in late 2014, after which a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened to try to restore the government.
The Houthis, who control the major urban centres, say their revolution is against corruption. The war has pushed millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine and 80% of the population relies on humanitarian aid.
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