The United States issued a warning to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels to drop a series of trumped-up charges against members of the country’s Baha’i community
Sam Brownback, the US Ambassador for International Religious Freedoms, expressed concern about reports that a court in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa is summoning members of the Baha’i faith to stand trial on charges of apostasy and espionage.
“We urge them to drop these allegations, release those arbitrarily detained, and respect religious freedom for all,” Brownback wrote on Twitter.
The international Baha’i community has denounced the court cases as “religiously-motivated sham trials” and accused the Houthi court of prosecuting the Baha’i community under “directives from the Iranian authorities.”
“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, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community, said in a statement.
The mainly Shiite Houthis are financed, trained, and armed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which restricts the rights of Baha’is, despite the fact that it allows freedom of religion for Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians in Iran.
Dozens of Baha’i leaders and followers have been arrested and imprisoned by the Houthi movement in recent years, according to religious discrimination advocacy groups.
The current estimates indicate that several thousand Baha’is still live in Yemen despite years of civil war and instability in the country. Hamed bin Haydara, the head of a Baha’i group in Yemen was sentenced to death in 2018 for the same charges of espionage and apostasy.
The international Baha’i community said he was arrested in 2013 and later beaten and tortured. Haydara was later forced to sign, while blindfolded, documents that admitted his guilt.