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article imageUS presses Yemen's Huthis to drop Baha'i charges

By AFP     Feb 23, 2020 in World

The United States has urged Yemen's Huthi rebels to drop charges targeting the Baha'i community, which said that 24 believers of the faith will face a new trial session Tuesday.

Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, voiced concern at reports that a court in Yemen's Huthi-controlled capital Sanaa is again summoning the the Baha'is who in 2018 were slapped with charges that include apostasy and espionage.

"We urge them to drop these allegations, release those arbitrarily detained, and respect religious freedom for all," he wrote on Twitter.

According to the Baha'i community, one member among the 24 to be tried Tuesday -- five of whom are already detained -- said that a prosecutor made clear that his arrest was due to his religion.

"The Baha'is that are held in Sanaa are innocent and the physical and mental torture they are experiencing is designed to force them to admit to crimes they have not committed," Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community, said in a statement.

The Huthis are allied with Iran's Shiite clerical regime, which restricts the rights of Baha'is despite allowing freedom of religion for Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Baha'is consider the Baha'u'llah, born in 1817 in Iran, to be a prophet, a sharp contrast from the orthodox Islamic view that Mohammed was God's final messenger.

Several thousand Baha'is are estimated to live in Yemen. Among them is Hamed bin Haydara, who was sentenced in 2018 to execution with appeals in his case under review.

The concern about Huthi treatment of the Baha'is comes amid widespread condemnation of the Saudi-led operation against the rebels over the heavy toll on civilians, including notoriously a 2018 air strike on a school bus.

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