Washington DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urges Houthi authorities to abide by their March 25 public commitment to release Baha’i religious prisoner of conscience Hamid bin Haydara along with 5 other detained Baha’is. USCIRF is concerned by reports suggesting that the Houthi First Specialized Criminal Court will only furlough the prisoners on the grounds of the “ongoing health situation” rather than grant them a full and unconditional release.
“Enough of the delays! The Houthis must implement their commitment to release and drop all charges against Hamid bin Haydara and 5 other detained Yemeni Baha’is,” said USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore, who advocates for Mr. bin Haydara as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “The Houthis were right to abandon their March 22 decision to impose a death sentence on Mr. bin Haydara and to dissolve Baha’i institutions in Yemen. But, this decision is meaningless if they do not act upon it. It is also time for all persecution of the Baha’is in Yemen to end, now.”
On December 3, 2013, Houthi authorities arrested and detained bin Haydara, holding him without charges in a prison for more than a year. In January 2015, he was charged falsely with spying for Israel, teaching literacy classes deemed incompatible with Islam, and attempting to convert Muslims. A judge sentenced bin Haydara to death on January 2, 2018 and ordered the closure of Baha’i institutions. After a series of hearings and delayed rulings throughout 2019, a Houthi appeals court upheld this verdict on March 22, 2020. On March 25, however, the Houthi Supreme Political Council announced that they would release Mr. bin Haydara and 5 other members of Yemen’s Baha’i community.
“The Houthi commitment to freedom for Mr. bin Haydara was made unequivocally, and it must be enacted without delay,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin. “Mr. bin Haydara must now be released and returned to his family.”
USCIRF recommended the designation of the Houthi movement as an entity of particular concern (EPC) in its 2019 Annual Report.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org or Danielle Ashbahian at email@example.com