Prominent Yemeni politician reportedly killed in Houthi prison

Prominent Yemeni politician reportedly killed in Houthi prison
A former Houthi official has suggested that Mohammad Qahtan, a leading member of al-Islah in Houthi custody, has been killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike.
3 min read
22 September, 2015
Air raids have been ongoing for months across Yemen [Anadolu]
Mohammad Qahtan, a leading member of al-Islah party who was in Houthi custody for several months, was killed in an airstrike two months ago, a former Houthi official has said.

Qahtan, who was arrested on April 4 after his party declared support for the Saudi-led intervention, fell victim to the coalition's air raids after being held in a location which military sources have confirmed was targeted.

"The leading member of al-Islah, Mohammad Qahtan was taken to a location that was regularly targeted by airstrikes as a kind of a threat," said Ali al-Bakhiti, a former leading member of the Houthi group, who was quoting an unnamed Houthi source.

According to the source, the Houthis were trying to obtain Qahtan's signature on a condemnation of the coalition strikes, "but the threat turned into a catastrophe when a coalition reconnaissance plane detected movement in the location and bombed it, killing Qahtan and two Houthi fighters who were in the vicinity".

If confirmed, the story is likely to provoke an outcry in Yemen, as Qahtan is one of the most prominent political prisoners held by the Houthis and a leading member of the Riyadh-supporting al-Islah party.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
spoke to political sources in Sanaa who believe that Bakhiti's statements might be a ruse aimed at pressuring the Houthi group to reveal Qahtan's true whereabouts - after the group refused to disclose information about him and prevented any family visits.
     With this crime there is no difference between the Houthis and the aggression of the coalition that targets civilians
- Ali al-Bakhiti

Bakhiti was one of four political activists who organised a demonstration in front of the political security prison in Sanaa a few days ago, demanding Qahtan's release.

The protesters were reportedly beaten by an all-female Houthi police unit and were detained for several hours.

"What the Houthis have done is a horrible crime and the intentional murder of a kidnapped civilian," said Bakhiti.

"With this crime there is no difference between the Houthis and the aggression of the coalition that targets civilians. Hiding information about Qahtan's fate and holding his body is another crime committed by the Houthis against his family and supporters," he added.

Mohammad Qahtan's family have organised several protests demanding information about his fate.

Qahtan, who was born in 1958, was a member of al-Islah's highest leadership committee, and was a spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties that was formed in 2003, as he was known to enjoy good relations with various Yemeni political groups.

In a report last week, Human Rights Watch accused the Houthi group of hiding Qahtan and not responding to inquires from his family about his whereabouts.

In a May statement, al-Islah party warned that the Houthi group was moving detainees to locations likely to be targeted by airstrikes, which it said was a crime against humanity.

Amin al-Rajawi, another leading member of al-Islah, was killed along with other detainees - including journalists - in a Houthi location in Dhammar governorate which was bombed by the Saudi-led coalition.