Hundreds of Sa’ada prisoners released

3 Jan
Malak Shaher & Mohammad Bin Sallam
Yemen Times

Published:03-01-2011

SANA’A, Jan. 2 — Nearly five hundred Sa’ada war prisoners were released on Thursday in exchange for weapons, Mohammad Albasha, the spokesman of the Yemeni embassy at Washington told the Yemen Times.

Albasha explained that the Qatar mediated and brokered the peace deal as part of proceedings initiated in August 2010.

Almost 270 prisoners were released from prisons in Sana’a and around 200 were released from political security prisons in Sa’ada, according to Mohammad Al-Mansoor, spokesman of the Shiite Al-Haq Party said to be in contact with the Houthis.

Al-Mansoor told the Yemen Times that the detainees were released after the Houthis returned 31 weapons to the Yemeni army. The weapons were taken by the Houthis in Sa’ada and Harf Sufian during the sixth round of the war between August 2009 and March 2010.

Concerns of those released

Some of the detainees claim that their property was seized when they were arrested and never returned back to them.

For Khaled Abdulwahed Shareef, who was arrested in June 2008 and released at the end of the same year, getting his cars from the port has become almost impossible.

Shareef, 26, imports cars. He buys them second hand from the USA and sells them in Yemen. He said that when he was detained by political security in Sana’a, he received four cars from the US that were seized by the political security.

“It has been around two years since I was released and I have still not got my things back that were with me at the time of my arrest,” said Shareef. “I have spent around USD 1,500 in procedures with the government to try to get my possessions back but have received nothing.”

Shareef said that besides from the four cars, two digital cameras and a university certificate were also taken from him when he was arrested. His certificate was for an Information Technology degree from the USA.

On Saturday, the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights released a press release asking the government to compensate the released prisoners.

According to the head of the organization, Ali Al-Dailami, around 30 of those who have been released have registered their names at the organization in order to help them retrieve their possessions.

“The 30 cases we have are only a few of the actual number of cases as people are also going to other human rights organizations that are appealing for the return of their possessions,” Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times.

“Now, the organization is working on getting these possessions back to their owners,” he added.

He also explained that some prisoners became infected with diseases as a result of their time in the political security prison.

“The organization calls on the government to treat the prisoners who were infected with dangerous diseases – such as heart and gastric problems – as well as to return their properties back to them,” Al-Dailami said.

In a telephone call with the Yemen Times, Mohammad Al-Qaedi, the Press Officer at the Ministry of Interior, said he is not authorized to give any information regarding this issue.

Possible re-arrests

Despite the release of the prisoners, their families are still concerned about whether they will be arrested again.

Fatima Al-Ezzi breathed a sigh of relief when she heard on Thursday that her husband, Al-Ezzi Rajeh, was among those prisoners released from the political security prison in Sa’ada. Despite her happiness at her husband’s release, she said that she was still afraid that he may be arrested again if the government accuses him on another charge.

Al-Ezzi was arrested in 2005 and released in 2007 and then later that same year he was arrested again before being shortly released. On both occasions he was accused of having relations with the Houthis simply due to his position as both an Imam and a Zaidi.

The prisoners are still concerned that the government is not going to compensate them for the loss of their property as well as for the health risks they suffered while in prison.

There are still nearly 500 people in prison accused of conspiring with the Houthis, according to Al-Haq party.

According to estimations by the Yemeni Organization for Defending the Human Rights, approximately 8,000 people have been arrested on the charge of being either Houthis or of conspiring with Houthis since the beginning of the war in 2004.

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