Houthis uphold 'outrageous' death sentence for member of Yemen's Baha'i minority

Houthis uphold 'outrageous' death sentence for member of Yemen's Baha'i minority
The Baha'i International Community in a statement said it was 'utterly dismayed' at an 'outrageous verdict' announced by Yemen's Houthi rebels.
2 min read
23 March, 2020
The rebels have called for the dissolution of the Baha'i institutions in Yemen [Getty]
A court run by Yemen's Houthi rebels has upheld the death sentence of a member of the Baha'i community due to his faith - deemed heretical by some Muslims - in defiance of international appeals, the minority community said on Monday.

Hamed bin Haydara, who has been detained since 2013, was not allowed at appear at Sunday's hearing in the capital Sanaa that rejected his appeal against the death sentence imposed more than a year ago, the community said.

The Baha'i International Community in a statement said it was "utterly dismayed at this outrageous verdict" and urged the court to overturn it.

"At a time when the international community is battling a global health crisis, it is incomprehensible that the authorities in Sanaa have upheld a death sentence against an innocent individual solely because of his beliefs instead of focusing on safeguarding the population, including Baha'is," said Diane Ala'i, the community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Read also: Yemen in Focus: Despite rumours, thousands test negative for coronavirus in war-torn Yemen

The US and other nations as well as human rights groups have voiced alarm over the Houthi rebels' treatment of Yemen's tiny Baha'i community.

"We urge them to drop these allegations, release those arbitrarily detained, and respect religious freedom for all," Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, wrote on Twitter.

The rebels are backed by Iran, whose Shia clerical regime bans the Baha'i faith and has persecuted its members, despite granting freedoms to other minorities including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

The Baha'i faith was founded in the 19th century by an Iranian, the Baha'u'llah. Believers consider him a prophet, a sharp contrast with the orthodox Islamic view that Mohammed was God's final messenger.

The Baha'i faith calls for unity among religions and equality between men and women.

Haydara is one of six Baha'is detained by Yemen's Houthi rebels and has spent months in prison where he suffered beatings and electric shocks, according to the community.

Houthi courts have started prosecuting more than 20 Baha'is and called for the dissolution of the faith's institutions in Yemen. Several thousand Baha'is are estimated to live in Yemen.

The Houthis control much of Yemen despite a US-backed military campaign led by Saudi Arabia, which has been widely criticised for attacks that have killed civilians.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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