Concerns are growing over the fate of more than 20 followers of the minority Baha’i faith in Yemen put on trial by the rebel Houthi movement.
The rebel-run Saba news agency reported that a court in Sanaa had sentenced three men to death for “collaborating with a foreign country.
Three followers of the Baha’i faith in Yemen have reportedly been sentenced to death by a court controlled by the rebel Houthi movement. The Baha’i community says they are accused of espionage and apostasy, describing the charges as “baseless”. They were being tried alongside 21 other people by a judge who sentenced a Baha’i man to death last January.
Baha’i representative Diane Alai said they had been “falsely and maliciously accused under absurd pretexts”. She urged the international community to “condemn these baseless actions in the strongest possible terms and call for the immediate release of all detained Baha’is”.
The Houthi movement has so far made no public comments on the issue.
In a speech in March, rebel leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi denounced the Baha’i faith as “satanic” and claimed it was “waging a war of doctrine” against Islam.
The Baha’i faith accepts all religions as having true and valid origins. The Baha’i faith is a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. Established by Bahá’u’lláh (“Glory of God”) in 1863, it initially grew in Iran and parts of the Middle East, where it has faced ongoing persecution since its inception.
Currently it has between 5 and 7 million adherents, known as Bahá’ís, spread out into most of the world’s countries and territories. There are only a few thousand in Yemen, where 99% of the 27 million population is Muslim.
The UN has said Bahai’s living in rebel territory have faced a “persistent pattern of persecution” , including harassment and arbitrary detention.
In January, UN human rights experts urged the Houthi-led authorities to annul a death sentence handed down against a Baha’i man, Hamid Kamali bin Haydara, who was accused of “compromising the independence of the Republic of Yemen” and spreading the Baha’i faith in the country.