'Emotional scenes': More than 300 detainees in Yemen released in Red Cross-managed prison swap deal
Approximately 318 prisoners were released Friday as part of a wider prisoner swap deal in Yemen between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed Friday.
The detainees who landed in both Aden and Sanaa were reunited with their loved ones in what Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East described as "emotional reunions with wives, brothers, daughters and sons, for the first time in many years".
Friday's released detainees are some of the almost 900 prisoners who will return home to either Yemen or Saudi Arabia, following the implementation of a United Nations-brokered deal that has been in the works for months.
"Our teams from the ICRC had the privilege this morning to see detainees call home for the first time in a long while," Carboni said during a media briefing in Geneva.
"The emotions seen at the airports today showed the emotional toll [the detention] took on the human spirit," he said.
Carboni said that the swap deal will help reduce human suffering in war-torn Yemen, where years of conflict have resulted in what the UN has described as one the world's worst humanitarian disasters.
The three-day operation is the most significant prisoner swap since more than 1,000 prisoners held by the warring parties were freed in October 2020.
Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, authorities released Yemeni journalist Marwan Al-Mureysi after he served five years in prison, rights groups have confirmed.
Al-Muraisi was sent back to Yemen last week after he finished serving his sentence in Riyadh’s Al-Ha’ir prison, his family told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The 41-year-old was arrested on 1 June 2018, without charge or reason for the arrest.
Al-Mureysi's release is not connected to the prisoner swap deal, researcher and journalist Afrah Nasser told The New Arab.
In January 2020, Al-Mureysi's infant son fell ill and died. Al-Mureysi was not granted leave to attend his funeral.
"This is happy news," Nasser said of Al-Mureysi's release. "But the question is, how they'll get compensation and redress for all the harm they were subjected to in custody? Marwan lost his baby son in prison."
Four journalists in detention in Yemen are expected to be released as part of the prisoner swap deal.
More than 150,000 people - mostly civilians - have been killed as a result of the war in Yemen.