500 Houthi detainees to be released during Ramdan [Archives:2007/1089/Local News]

September 27 2007

By: Mohammd Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Sept 26 ) Despite the meditation by the government of Qatari and demands from international human rights organisations, over 3000 members of Al-Houthi are still in prison. Some of the detainees have been in detention for more than 18 months.

The detainees, who are kept in political security prisons around the republic, are accused of anti-state acts and support of Al-Houthi insurgents in the northern governorate of Sa'ada.

However, sources in Sa'ada claimed last week that president Saleh had met with a number of political and religious figures involved in the Sa'ada conflict and promised to release 500 detainees during the holy month of Ramadan, before mid- November. Government officials refused to comment on this issue.

The Geneva- based Al-Karama Organization for Human Rights called on the United Nations to put pressure on Yemeni government to release 37 detainees in Hajja who had been charged with “Houthism”. Among the detainees two are 15 years old and another two less than 18 years of age. Security authorities in Hajja accused the 37 detainees in January of supporting Al-Houthi insurgents but had not been able to prove the charges yet.

The organization stated two particular cases (detainees number 36 and 37) who had been in prison over one and half a year.

“All of the detainees belong to the Zaidi sect and are from or reside in Hajja governorate. They have been arrested illegally because of the conflict in Sa'ada,” the organization said.

Relatives of the detainees said the arrests are based on flawed accusations or personal grudges. Relatives of Abdulrahman Saba one of the 37 detainees, had personal issues with a local sheikh who tipped the security on Saba and accused the later of rebelling against the state.

The organization feared for the life of those detainees especially that some of them have started a hunger strike, while many others are being abused during their detention. Some of the detainees managed to convey to their relatives outside prison about the inhumane conditions they are living in and the lack of medical conditions.

On Sept. 20, despite the president's instruction to release 500 detainees, only 67 detainees who had been arrested on charges of supporting Al-Huothi were released.

And although the military action has officially been stopped in Sa'ada, for negotiation purposes, many locals reported that the attacks are still going on. Houthi rebels had ordered to surrender their weapons, and give up control of the towns they are basing their fight from.

However, clashes have reached the homes and livelihood of the locals. On Friday night, government militia attacked a village at Haidan district and killed two and seriously injured another villager.

Mediators still in detention

Abdulkarim Al-Houthi and his brother were part of the mediation committee to help settle the Sa'ada conflict in January 2007. However, their families reported their sudden disappearance after they had been arrested by the Ministry of Interior early 2007.

“Abdulkarim Al-Houthi had tried to assist the government in reaching a compromise with the Houthi rebles, and now he is the one missing. “Four months ago we heard he is in the political security prison but now we have no idea where he is,” complained a member of his family.

His family is concerned about his health especially that he has Asthma and had just undergone a stone removal operation from his kidney before he was arrested.

Three more members of the family had also been arrested and are missing despite rumours that they are detained at the political security detention.

Forty-seven detainees in Nasiriyah prison of Hajja governorate had been humiliated and chains were put on their legs inside the cells because of their refusal to break the fast in the same time with the prison security.

The fast breaking time difference, which is around 5 minutes, is based on a religious belief in the Shi'a sect. The religious difference caused dismay among the security and hence they lashed out on the detainees.