‘Welcomed’ pardon for Bahai prisoner sentenced to death
An execution date was not announced, but the judge ordered that it be carried out in public.
Natalie Mobini, director of the Office of External Affairs for the Australian Bahai Community, said then the charges were baseless.
“The charge of spying relates solely to the location of the Bahai World Centre, which has been located in the Holy Land since the 19th century, long before the creation of Israel.
“Furthermore, Bahai teachings forbid proselytising. An individual’s decision about whether to become a Bahai is entirely up to them.
“Mr Haydara has not committed any crime, let alone one that warrants the death penalty.”
On March 22, the grim news came that the Court of Appeals in Sanaa had upheld the death sentence. Haydara was not allowed to attend court.
In response, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf said, “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.
“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.”
A few days later, in what the Australian Bahai community calls “a welcomed turn of events”, Mahdi al-Mashat ordered a pardon for Haydara and the release of all Bahai prisoners.
The others to be released were named as Waleed Ayyash, Akram Ayyash, Kayvan Ghaderi, Badiullah Sanai and Wael al-Arieghie.
“The order must lead to the lifting of the 2018 charges against a group of over 20 Bahais, the returning of all Bahai-owned assets and properties, and the functioning of Bahai institutions,” Diane Alai, representative of the Bahai International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, said.
“Like all other Yemeni citizens, Bahais should be permitted to practise their faith freely, in keeping with the universal principles of freedom of religion or belief.”
More than 240 prisoners have been released in government-held areas as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, officials there said.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, which is mired in a bloody civil war, has not yet detected any cases of the coronavirus, most likely because of its weak disease surveillance systems.
The civil war erupted in 2014 when the Shiite Houthis, backed by Iran, seized Sanaa along with much of the country’s north, ousting president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Months later the Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened to try to restore Hadi’s internationally recognised government.
The war has killed more than 100,000 people, many by Saudi-led air strikes. It has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.
The Bahai faith originated in Iran in 1844. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Iranian Bahai community has undergone severe persecution.
Steve Jacobs is a senior journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald and smh.com.au. He is the former environment editor, former assistant editor and is also an author and a lawyer.