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USCIRF Commissioner Andy Khawaja Adopts Yemeni Religious Prisoner of Conscience

WASHINGTON, DC – Andy Khawaja, Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today announced his adoption of Hamid Kamal Mohammad bin Haydara, a Yemeni member of the Baha’i faith sentenced to death on charges that include attempting to convert Muslims, as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.

I call on Houthi authorities to immediately release Hamid bin Haydara, to grant him access to medical care, and to end the persecution of Baha’i men and women in Yemen,” said Khawaja. “The Houthi disbandment of the Baha’i community in Yemen and detention of several Baha’i Yemenis on spurious charges is an intolerable attack on religious freedom.

In 2013, authorities linked to the Houthi-run National Security Bureau arrested and detained Haydara initially without charges. Haydara virtually disappeared until September 2, 2014, when his wife, Ilham Zara’i, was finally permitted to visit him.

He was held in a prison in the middle of a conflict zone, with limited his access to adequate healthcare, until  January 8, 2015, when the official charges finally came. These included allegations of being a spy for Israel, attempting to make certain locations within Yemen a homeland for the followers of the Baha’i Faith, offering literacy classes that followed a curriculum deemed incompatible with Islam, and attempting to convert Muslims to the Baha’i Faith. After a 3-year delay in sentencing, on January 2, 2018, a judge condemned Haydara to death. He remains imprisoned and the Houthi Court of Appeals has scheduled the next hearing for Haydara on January 29, 2019.

 

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at kboyle@uscirf.gov or +1-703-898-6554.