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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Yemen minister says reports of secret prisons are 'fake'

Deputy interior minister invited journalists on prison visit to see conditions for themselves

An Aden policeman mans a machine gun mounted on a patrol truck at the site of a car bomb attack outside the Finance Ministry offices in Aden, Yemen November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman
An Aden policeman mans a machine gun mounted on a patrol truck at the site of a car bomb attack outside the Finance Ministry offices in Aden, Yemen November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

A senior Yemeni minister has denied the existence of secret prisons in the country.

Deputy Minister of Interior Maj Gen Ali Nasser Al Akhsha made the comments while touring Aden’s Bier Ahmed prison on Sunday.

He rejected claims of "secret UAE-run prisons" operating in Yemen, telling reporters: “I confirm that there is no evidence for the rumours and claims reported by some media agencies about secret or illegal prisons, or prisons not affiliated with the legitimate government — all such claims are fake".

There were “no secret prisons in the liberated Yemeni governorates, and the judiciary supervises all prisons in the liberated areas”, the minister said.

“If there is any [foreign] intervention, it is for the sake of support, to provide financial and logistical support for us, because we still need it."

Maj Gen Al Akhsha, who was visiting the prison to inspect the conditions there and hear the concerns of the inmates, also invited journalists to visit the facility to see the conditions for themselves.

Forty-six people were released from the Beir Ahmed prison last Tuesday, although Yemen’s public prosecutor did not give further details.

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The prison visit came more than two weeks after the Associated Press reported allegations of torture at three alleged secret prisons across Yemen. Following AP reports in June last year alleging UAE involvement in Yemeni prisons, the UAE Foreign Ministry “strongly refuted” the claims.

Maj Gen Al Akhsha urged those with missing relatives to report the disappearance to the authorities. "Any citizen claiming to have lost a relative, or who doesn’t know their whereabouts, must visit the police department in Aden to inform them. We will investigate anyone reported lost."

Referring specifically to allegations regarding a detention facility at Rayyan Airport in Hadramawt, he said that all detainees in the governorate were held in Mukalla central prison.

Maj Gen Shallal Ali Shaiya, the head of Aden police who accompanied the minister on his prison visit, told The National that the prisons were "according to international standards”.

Gen Shaiya thanked the Arab Coalition and the UAE for their support in reconstructing the Yemen’s infrastructure after years of war.

“I gratefully appreciate all kinds of the support granted by our brothers in the Arab Coalition states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are standing by us and providing us all the facilities needed to reconstruct the devastated infrastructure of the police headquarters," he said.