AL-MUKALLA: Eritrean authorities have released 166 out of 267 detained Yemeni fishermen, but have refused to hand back their vessels or their personal belongings.
Locals said on Wednesday that the first group of 115 released fishermen arrived in the Red Sea town of Khokha on Tuesday, while a second group of 51 arrived on the same day in the coastal region south of the port city of Mocha.
The fishermen were detained by the Eritrean authorities five months ago while working in international waters.
A local fisherman, who requested anonymity, told Arab News: “We sent boats (to Eritrea) to transport the freed fisherman home because the Eritrean authorities refused to return their seized boats and other property. Their sole possession is the clothing they wear.”
The Yemenis have demanded that the authorities free the remaining 101 fishermen currently being held.
Hundreds of Yemeni fishermen have been jailed in Eritrea in recent years for allegedly violating Eritrean waters, a claim rejected by the Yemenis.
The dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over water rights in the Red Sea erupted into a brief conflict in 1995 over the island of Greater Hanish. A ruling later determined that the territory belonged to Yemen.
Separately, foreign envoys in Yemen and human rights organizations have condemned the Iran-backed Houthis for abducting 17 members of the Baha’i religious minority after attacking its gathering in Sanaa last week.
US Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin said in a tweet: “We condemn the May 25 Houthi raid on a peaceful gathering of Baha’i in Sanaa resulting in the forced disappearance of at least 17 people.
“We stand with the people of Yemen and their right to freedom of religion, expression, and association.”
Human Rights Watch also condemned the action while urging the Houthis to set those held free and refrain from persecuting religious minorities.
Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “The Houthis have systematically violated the rights of minorities in Yemen and show no sign of letting up on the pressure.
“The international community should stand in solidarity with the Baha’i community and exert pressure on the Houthi authorities to release the detained people immediately.”
Yemeni organizations, including the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, also strongly condemned the actions of the Houthis.