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ByDebra J. Aguilar

May 22, 2022

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have again come under fire for mistreating prisoners after an employee of a US aid organization in Yemen died while in the group’s custody.

The US Embassy in Sanaa said on Thursday that Abdulhameed Al-Ajami, one of its employees in the Yemeni capital who was kidnapped by the Houthis late last year, died in custody at his home. the Houthis.

In a statement, also calling for the release of other workers detained by the Houthis, the embassy said: “We mourn the death of Abdulhameed Al-Ajami, a retired employee of USAID (United States Agency for International Development ), who died in Houthi captivity.

“He was an innocent grandfather who should never have died away from his family, a proud Yemeni devoted to the education of Yemeni children.

“We extend our condolences to his loved ones and call on the Houthis to end this injustice and release all current and former employees of the US Embassy now.”

Al-Ajami was among at least a dozen Yemeni embassy and USAID workers who were abducted and then forcibly disappeared after militia raided the embassy compound.

Yemeni activists and local media said Al-Ajami was brutally tortured by the Houthis and denied vital mediation, a decision that led to his death.

Al-Ajami’s death came as friends of another US Embassy abductee, Bassam Al-Mardahi, warned he could die too, as he was in critical condition in because of the torture by his captors.

Yemeni government officials, human rights activists and former abductees have strongly condemned the Houthis for abusing prisoners, saying Al-Ajami’s death was another clue to the torture methods used by the Houthis. the group against thousands of prisoners.

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani offered his condolences to Al-Ajami’s family and called for international action to force the Houthis to stop abusing prisoners and release them immediately.

He expressed strong condemnation of the group’s “psychological and physical torture” of Al-Ajami, treatment which the minister said led to his death eight months after his abduction, adding that he had been deprived “of their most basic rights, including medication.

The French embassy in Yemen also denounced the death and called on the Houthis to release the other kidnapped American and UN workers.

In a tweet, the embassy said, “It has reiterated its demand for the release of all local US Embassy and UN employees who have been arbitrarily detained by the Houthis for several months.

The Houthis also still hold two Yemenis working for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sanaa, who were abducted in the city ​​in November. The two workers were not tried and the Houthis prevented them from contacting their families, the UN said.

Similarly, Yemeni human rights activists said torture was commonplace in Houthi prisons and dozens of civilians abducted by the group had died in custody.

Fuad Al-Mansouri, a Yemeni human rights activist, told Arab News that many detainees in Houthi prisons could suffer the same fate as Al-Ajami if the Houthis were not forced to stop abuse prisoners.

“Al-Ajami’s death is a very serious indication of the mistreatment of detainees in Houthi militia prisons. This is not the first incident, and it won’t be the last,” Al-Mansouri said.

Amat Al-Salam Al-Hajj, president of the Association of Abducted Mothers, an umbrella organization for thousands of female relatives of prisoners of war, told Arab News that the Houthis had barred relatives of detained embassy employees from American to talk to the organization or the media. , urging the UN envoy to Yemen to work for the release of thousands of detainees.

“In Houthi prisons, the dignity of the Yemeni human being is violated. The abductee case is a real humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Abdullah Al-Munifi, a Yemeni journalist and former detainee who was released from a Houthi prison in 2018, told Arab News he was whipped with electric cables, hung by his arms, deprived of sleep and a toilet. , electrocuted and held in solitary confinement. confinement for months.

“I would like to die because of the torture. Sometimes they make wounds on the body and put salt on it,” Al-Munifi said.