Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Yemen Prepares for Largest Prisoner Swap Since Coup

Yemen Prepares for Largest Prisoner Swap Since Coup

Tuesday, 29 March, 2022 - 04:45
Armed Houthis shout slogans as they visit the grave of Houthi senior official Saleh al-Sammad at al-Sabeen Square in Sanaa, Yemen January 11, 2021. (Reuters)

Yemen is preparing to hold the largest prisoner swap between the legitimate government and Iran-backed Houthi militias since their 2014 coup.

Government and Houthi sources said more than 2,200 detainees will be covered in the exchange, which is being sponsored by the office of the United Nations envoy.

They include Nasser Mansour, brother of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, former defense minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi and two relatives of slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah) condemned the failure to include its prominent member, Mohamed Qahtan, in the swap.

The exchange of lists of detainees and captives will be held on Tuesday. No date has been set yet for when the swap will take place, amid government concerns that the Houthis may back down from it.

Human Rights Ministry Secretary and member of the negotiating team, Majed Fadael said the agreement was the result of discussions that were sponsored by the office of UN envoy Hans Grundberg.

In a series of tweets, he revealed that the Houthis are expected to release 800 prisoners and captives, while the government will release 1,400 Houthi detainees, who are held by the national army and southern and west coast forces.

He stressed that the issue of prisoners and captives is a humanitarian cause and no side has the right to claim that they alone have led to this accomplishment. It is a result of collective efforts and long negotiations and consultations through the UN envoy's office.

Other detainees included in the swap are wounded, journalists and elderly citizens.

Houthi official in charge of the prisoner file, Abdul Qader al-Mortada confirmed Fadael's remarks, saying Hadi's brother and Subaihi will both be released. He did not confirm whether Saleh's two relatives will also be freed.

Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani hoped that journalists Abdul Khaliq Omran, Toufik al-Mansouri, Harith Hmeid and Akram al-Walidi will be included in the prisoner exchange.

In a statement, he revealed that by June, they would have completed seven years of imprisonment by the Houthis. "They are enduring challenging health conditions and their release has become necessary to save their lives and end their families' suffering."

He said they were kidnapped by the Houthis from their homes for simply carrying out their profession, which is protected by the law and constitution.

Editor Picks