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Baha'is fear for members excluded from Yemen prisoner swap

At December peace talks in Sweden, Yemen's foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (L) and rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam (R) agreed on a prisoner swap, but the rebels balked at including six Baha'i prisoners, according to the Baha'i community
At December peace talks in Sweden, Yemen's foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (L) and rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam (R) agreed on a prisoner swap, but the rebels balked at including six Baha'i prisoners, according to the Baha'i community AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

The Baha'i community voiced fresh concern Monday for members of the faith detained under Yemen's Huthi rebels, saying that prisoners have been excluded from a swap planned with the government.

The Iranian-linked rebels, who control the capital Sanaa, and the Saudi-backed government in December agreed on a mass prisoner swap, exchanging more than 15,000 names, in a rare sign of hope in ending one of the world's most devastating conflicts.

But the Baha'is, whose religion is opposed by Iran's Shiite clerical regime, said the rebels had balked at including six Baha'is who had been on the list.

Instead, the community said it has learned that the rebels were pressing for an abrupt appeals hearing to take place Tuesday on Hamed bin Haydara, a Baha'i who has been sentenced to death, and for quick verdicts against 24 other detained Baha'is who could also face the death penalty on religious grounds.

"We are extremely concerned for the safety of the Yemeni Baha'i community following these latest developments and sincerely hope that the judicial authorities in Sanaa will judge with fairness and clear Mr. Haydara of these false accusations," Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, said in a statement.

Iran grants freedom of religion to several minorities but targets the Bahai's, who believe in unity among religions and equality between men and women.

Baha'is consider the Baha'u'llah, an Iranian born in 1817, to be a prophet from God -- in contrast to the orthodox Islamic view that Mohammed was the final prophet.

UN human rights representatives have called for an end to the death sentence handed down in January 2018 against Haydara, who was first detained in 2013 and is said by the Baha'i community to be suffering health problems.

Saudi-led forces backed by the United States have also been widely condemned on rights grounds, including over bombings of hospitals and a blockade that has contributed to starvation.

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