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Yemen’s Houthis Release 290 Detainees in Face-Saving Move

Yemen’s Houthis Release 290 Detainees in Face-Saving Move

Tuesday, 1 October, 2019 - 05:45
Some Yemeni prisoners seen after they were released by the Houthis from the central prison in the capital Sanaa on September 30, 2019. AFP

Houthi militias claimed on Monday having released 350 detainees from Sanaa prisons, as a kind of face-saving strategy.


Their claim was an attempt to show the group’s commitment to the Stockholm agreement struck with the Yemeni government last year.


While the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement clarifying Houthi fabrications concerning the exact number of released persons, Asharq Al-Awsat learned from interviews it conducted with those released Monday, that none was a prisoner of war or had fought in the ranks of the legitimacy.


On Monday, Houthis brought journalists to the vicinity of the central prison in Sanaa to give the impression that they were respecting the Stockholm agreement concerning an agreed prisoner exchange.


One of those released told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity that he was kidnapped three years ago from north Sanaa by Houthis that claimed he was acting against the militia.


Another released man said the insurgents also kidnapped him three years ago when he was traveling to Maarab.


An injured person who walked out of prison on Monday said he was hurt when a military camp where he was detained with others, was hit, denying having fought in the ranks of the legitimacy.


On Monday, the ICRC said Houthis released 290 kidnapped persons.


A statement said 42 of the detainees were used as human shields by Houthis during an attack on a military site and arms depot in Dhamar, where the men had been held three years ago.


Franz Rauchenstein, the ICRC chief in Yemen, said the Red Cross facilitated the release following a request from the Houthis. He expressed hope that this would open the door to “further releases to bring comfort to families awaiting reunification with their loved ones.”


The ICRC said it helped confirm the identities of the detainees, determined where they would like to go upon their release, assessed detainee health and provided financial assistance.


For his part, UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called on “all parties to ensure the safe return of the released detainees to their homes.”


He also invited the warring sides to meet at “the nearest opportunity and to resume the discussions” that began last year in Stockholm.


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