Yemen's Houthis pardon Baha'i sentenced to death, release prisoners
Yemen's Houthi rebels announced they had pardoned a minority Baha'i sentenced to death over his religion and ordered the release of more than 20 other members of the minority imprisoned in the capital Sanaa, local reports said on Wednesday.
The announcement came after the Baha'i International Community Monday on Monday denounced the upholding of the death sentence of Hamed bin Haydara, detained since 2013, despite international appeals.
It said it was "utterly dismayed at this outrageous verdict", reached at a Sunday hearing, which Haydara had not been allowed to attend.
But on Wednesday, Mehdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthis' political wing, said in a statement tweeted by the Al-Masirah news channel: "We order the release of all Baha'i prisoners and announce the pardon and release of Hamed bin Haydara."
Rights groups have voiced alarm over the Houthi rebels' treatment of Yemen's small Baha'i community.
Haydara has spent months in prison, where he suffered beatings and electric shocks, according to the community.
Houthi courts had started prosecution of more than 20 Baha'is and called for the dissolution of the faith's institutions in Yemen before Wednesday's announcement. Several thousand Baha'is are estimated to live in Yemen.
The Houthis seized Sanaa in 2014 and control much of Yemen, despite a US-backed military campaign led by Saudi Arabia, which has been widely criticised for attacks that have killed civilians.
The rebels are linked to Iran, whose Shia clerical regime bans the Baha'i faith, even while granting religious freedom to other minorities, including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.
The faith was founded in the 19th century by an Iranian, Baha'u'llah, and calls for unity among religions as well as equality between men and women.
Believers consider Baha'u'llah a prophet, putting them at odds with the orthodox Islamic view that Mohammed was God's final messenger.