Tánaiste Simon Coveney has called on the Yemeni authorities to release a 52-year-old man sentenced to death for his religious beliefs following an appeal by a number of TDs and the Bahá'í community in Ireland.
Mr Coveney, also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said: “Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief and is unequivocal in its stance on the death penalty.”
Hamed Bin Haydara, one of 2,000 members of the Bahá'í community in Yemen, was sentenced to death on January 2nd.
The Tánaiste said the State opposes and condemns the use of the death penalty “in all circumstances, and in particular in cases where there are allegations of unfair trials preceding its implementation. The abolition of the death penalty is one of Ireland’s international priorities, and my department regularly conveys our stance on this issue to all countries where the death penalty is still in use.”
Patricia Rainsford, co-ordinator of the Irish Bahá'í Office of Public Affairs, said when Mr Haydara was sentenced the local judge also called for the dissolution of all elected Bahá'í institutions, placing the entire Bahá'í community in imminent danger.
State of war
Yemen has been in a state of war for three years and Ms Rainsford said that since the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sana’a, “a cultural campaign of ‘antagonism towards others’ has been promoted. This campaign is directed against Bahá’ís, Jews and other religious followers.”
Ms Rainsford said Amnesty International had also highlighted Mr Haydara’s case as a “prisoner of conscience who has been tried on account of his conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities as a member of the Bahá’í community”.
Ms Rainsford said: “We are asking the Government, EU representatives and everyone who values justice to add their voices to the international efforts to save this man’s life.”
The Bahá’í religion originated in Iran in the 1860s, spreading mainly through the Middle East. It has between five and seven million followers globally. Followers believe God is revealed through the ages by prophets including Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad and that all religions are fundamentally unified in purpose.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O’Brien and Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan have raised Mr Haydara’s case in a number of parliamentary questions.
They asked the Tánaiste what action he and the Department of Foreign Affairs had taken to assist Mr Haydara and if the Yemeni’s case had been raised with the EU’s external action service.
Mr Coveney said that last year Ireland joined the small core group at the UN Human Rights Council that initiated the adoption of a resolution on Yemen, establishing a group of international experts “to investigate the facts in relation to violations of human rights and humanitarian law on the ground. This group will report back to the human rights council, as an important step towards accountability in Yemen.”