July 1, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – Andy Khawaja, Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today called on the Houthi appellate court to overturn the death sentence, to drop all charges, and to release religious prisoner of conscience Hamid bin Haydara at tomorrow’s hearing. A member of Yemen’s Baha’i community, Mr. Haydara was sentenced to death in January 2018 on charges that include apostasy.
“Mr. Haydara’s case is an egregious violation of justice based on the Houthis’ intolerance of Baha’is and other religious minorities in Yemen,” said Khawaja, who advocates on behalf of Mr. Haydara as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “He has been deprived of his liberty and dignity simply because he had been seeking to live according to his beliefs.”
On December 3, 2013, Houthi authorities arrested and detained Mr. Haydara, holding him without charges in a prison for more than a year. In January 2015, he was charged falsely with spying for Israel, teaching literacy classes deemed incompatible with Islam and attempting to convert Muslims. A judge sentenced Mr. Haydara to death on January 2, 2018. He is one of six prominent Yemeni Baha’i leaders currently detained on spurious charges.
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF, for the first time, recommended designating the Houthis in Yemen an “entity of particular concern,” or EPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act, based on the group’s egregious violations of religious freedom in 2018. The State Department designated the Houthis an EPC in November 2018.