A court in Yemen has upheld the death sentence of Hamed bin Haydara.
Bin Haydara is a member of the Baha’i faith, who has been in prison since December 2013. The court in Houthi-controlled Sanaʽa, Yemen’s capital, rejected his appeal and approved the sentence that was handed down in January 2018. The Yemeni officials did not allow bin Haydara to attend his appeal hearing on Sunday.
Bin Haydara has been charged with spying, but the international Baha’i community and human rights activists believe that the allegation is baseless.
Bin Haydara’s trial lasted four years and, according to a report of the Baha’i community, he was sentenced to public execution.
The Baha’i International Community has condemned the death sentence against bin Haydara.
“At a time when the international community is battling a global health crisis, it is incomprehensible that the authorities in Sana’a 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, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.
“The Baha’i International Community is utterly dismayed at this outrageous verdict, and it calls on the court and the Houthi authorities to take immediate action to overturn this unjust sentence,” said Ala’i.
Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have also condemned the trial and judged it to have been unfair.
“There is no question that Hamed Haydara is being sentenced to death solely for his conscientiously-held beliefs and peaceful activities. We urge the Houthi authorities to quash his death sentence, and immediately and unconditionally release him,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.
The Houthi-run appeals court has also upheld the decision to close all Baha’i institutions and to confiscate all of their assets.
Maalouf added, “This decision, taken in Hamed Haydara’s absence, is only the latest development in what has been a flagrantly-flawed trial and indicates the lengths to which the Houthis are willing to go to consolidate their control,”
Previously the United States and other nations have voiced alarm over the treatment of the Baha’i community in Yemen under Houthi rule.
Bin Haydara is not the only follower of the Baha’i faith who has been persecuted in Yemen. In recent years, Houthi authorities have targeted and persecuted tens of the followers of the Baha’i faith in Yemen.
In 2018, 24 Baha’is were accused of apostasy and spying for Israel.
Bin Haydara is one of six Baha’is currently imprisoned in Sana’a for their beliefs.
Concerns over the situation of the Baha’i in Yemen are growing. The minority group are currently caught in the middle of a conflict in one of the poorest Arab countries. Several Baha’is have been accused of espionage and apostasy during trials held in Sana’a. Human rights activists have questioned the validity of the trials, describing the charges as baseless.
The Baha’i community has been living in Yemen for more than 150 years. The Baha’i faith originated in Iran in 1844, but is currently banned there. The followers of the faith have undergone systematic persecution by the Iranian state. Israel is currently home to some Baha’i holy sites and also hosts some of the faith’s administrative buildings, due to the banishment of the founder of the Baha’i faith by the Iranian government and the Ottoman Empire. There are an estimated six million Baha’i followers around the world.
The Bab, the Forerunner of the Baha’i Faith, came to Yemen in the mid-nineteenth century, and since then, Baha’is are a minority in this Muslim dominated country. It is estimated that there are currently several thousand Baha’is living in Yemen.