Update: Days after the sentencing of Hamid Bin Haydara, Houthi political leader Mahdi Al-Mashat announced the decision to release him and six other Baha'i members imprisoned by the rebels. However, the seven detained men have yet to be freed.
Houthi appeals court reaffirms death sentence, confiscates assets of Baha’i religious minority leader
A Houthi-run appeals court reaffirmed the death sentence of Baha’i religious leader Hamid Bin Haydara on Sunday and ordered the confiscation of his assets and the dissolution of Baha’i institutions in Yemen, according to a statement released by the Bahá’í International Community.
The Baha’i faith, which promotes unity among religions and celebrates human diversity, has about 2,000 followers in Yemen. The religion has its origins in Iran and members have been persecuted there as well.
Haydara was first imprisoned in 2013 and faced a series of sham court trials for four years on charges of apostasy and spying for Israel, before being sentenced to death in 2018. Human Rights Watch has accused the Houthis of frequent harassment and arbitrary detention of Yemen’s Baha’i community, which the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief described as a “persistent pattern of persecution … that mirrors the persecution suffered by the Baha’is living in Iran.”
The imprisonment and sentence of the Baha’i has been widely condemned by international rights groups, and Haydara is designated as a prisoner of conscience by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
"The Houthis took advantage of the world's preoccupation with coronavirus, [betting] that the international community will not be paying close attention to humanitarian issues at this time,” Abdullah Al-Olofi, the spokesperson for the Baha’I community in Yemen, told Xinhua news.
"There are six other detained Baha'is awaiting the same verdict, and the rest of the Baha'i community is displaced,” he added.
Editing by Ahlam Mohsen and Casey Coombs