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Members of Yemen's Bahai minority could face death penalty

The Bahai faith has around 7 million followers [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 September, 2018

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Two dozens members of Yemen's Bahai minority could be executed, following 'trumped up charges' by rebels in control of the capital, Amnesty has warned.

Members of Yemen's Bahai faith, who have been jailed by rebels in Sanaa, face charges that carry the death penalty, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Twenty-four members of the Bahai religious minority - including eight women, and a child - are being held by Houthi rebels, charged with spying for a foreign power, according to the human rights group.

The charges carry the death sentence, which the human rights group rejected as "bogus" and an "abuse of the justice system".

"We are seeing trumped up charges and flagrantly unfair proceedings used to persecute Yemeni Bahais for their faith," said Lynn Maalouf, head of Middle East research at Amnesty. 

"It is particularly abhorrent that some of these men and women could face the death penalty for their conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities."

Yemen's Bahai community, along with other minorities, have faced persecution from the Houthis, who took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014.

"The Houthi authorities should drop these bogus charges, release those who are arbitrarily detained and end their abuse of the justice system to punish freedom of belief and persecute political critics, journalists, activists, Bahais and other minorities," Maalouf added.

The Bahai faith was founded by Bahaullah, an Iranian born in 1817, whom his followers believe is the latest prophet sent by God.

There are an estimated 7 million Bahai in the world, many in Israel which is home to the faith's headquarter's in the northern city of Haifa.

This has led to Bahai in Iran and Yemen being accused of spying for Israel, and in both countries they have faced severe persecution.

Saudi Arabia and its allies went to war with the Houthis in March 2015, who it accused of being an Iranian proxy.

Around 13,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict, many of them civilians from Saudi-led coalition air strikes.

On Monday, the Houthis alleged it had busted a UAE spy ring in the capital.

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