Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Hearing for Yemeni Bahai postponed as rebels block court appearance

Hamed bin Haydara, 55, was sentenced to death for espionage and apostasy

Houthi rebels chant slogans in the city of Amran, 50 kms north of Sanaa. AFP
Houthi rebels chant slogans in the city of Amran, 50 kms north of Sanaa. AFP

The head of Yemen’s Bahai minority was prevented from appearing in a rebel-held Sanaa court for an appeals hearing on Tuesday, forcing his case to be postponed again until the end of the month.

Hamed bin Haydara, 55, was sentenced to death for espionage and apostasy by a Houthi court in the Sanaa in January last year based on charges filed against him in 2015. He is appealing his conviction with his defence teams insisting there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

The case was described as “an egregious violation of justice based on the Houthis’ intolerance of Bahais and other religious minorities in Yemen,” by Andy Khawaja, head of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal body set up by Congress.

Mr Haydara’s defence contends that he was convicted without due investigation into his alleged crimes and without sufficient evidence, Abdullah Al Oulofy, the spokesman of the Bahai minority in Sanaa told The National.

Once again, Houthi authorities failed to transfer Mr Haydara from Sanaa’s central prison to the courthouse for his hearing, leading to the latest postponement. Mr Haydara’s defence team raised an objection at the last session, accusing the rebels of trying to hinder the course of justice. They demanded Mr Haydara’s release due to his age and worsening health conditions.

"Not bringing Hamid to the court for two sessions confirms that the purpose of that is to obstruct justice and keep him in prison for a long time and deprive him of his right to have a fair trial,” Mr Al Oulofy recounted Mr Haydara’s defence team telling the court.

Human rights organizations and rights advocates have repeatedly called on the Houthi authorities to release Mr Haydara and the other Bahai prisoners as soon as possible.

Last year, 24 Bahais were accused of apostasy and espionage in a Sanaa court. Five of them are being held in prison and their case is being presided over by the same judge who sentenced Mr Haydara to death, according to the Bahai International Community.

The Bahai faith calls for unity among religions and equality between men and women.

It was founded in Iran in 1844, and considers itself a universal religion, but is opposed by the regime in Tehran.

There are an estimated six million Bahai worldwide.

Updated: July 9, 2019 08:41 PM

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