Live Urgent Question on Hamed Bin Haydara House of Commons


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Live Urgent Question on Hamed Bin Haydara

Live coverage of Conservative MP Bob Blackman asking an urgent question on the death sentence verdict given to Hamed Bin Haydara in Yemen.


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kind of area at the honourable lady

alludes to and if she would like to

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write to me with further details of

exactly the aspects she is

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interested in I would certainly be

very happy to consider them.

Urgent

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question, Bob Blackman.

To ask the

Secretary of State if he will make a

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statement on the death sentence

verdict made against a Yemeni on the

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2nd of January this year.

Mr Speaker

we are very concerned that they are

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being persecuted for their religious

beliefs in Yemen are particularly in

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areas controlled by forces aligned

to the late former president. We

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strongly condemn this mistreatment

and we continue to work closely with

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our partners including the EU to

raise the issue directly with the de

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facto authorities. We are aware of

the death sentence and have sought

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to raise the profile of the

situation through public diplomacy.

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The immediate release of in Yemen

imprisoned for those religious

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beliefs was a key demand in the

September United Nations human

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rights Council resolution which we

supported. We will work closely with

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all partners to ensure its full

implementation.

I thank my

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honourable friend for his answer and

to you Mr Speaker for granting this

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urgent question. Members across the

house have concerns about the denial

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of freedom of religion and belief of

people of all faiths and none. The

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threat to execute constitutes a

grave risk to the lives of an

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innocent man, the father of three

and would accelerate the climate of

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persecution against the wider

community in Yemen as a whole. He

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was arrested in December 2013 and

has been subjected to torture,

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beating, electrocution and forced to

sign confessions under duress. 40

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court hearings have been held on his

case which were cancelled raising

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serious questions about any due

process. He has been denied

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treatment for medical conditions

which came as a direct result of the

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torture inflicted on him. He was not

even permitted to be present at the

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court hearing when he was sentenced

to death. I have a series of

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questions I would ask my right

honourable friend to answer if you

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can. Can he say if the UK Government

has any further lines of

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communication to make

representations to the authorities

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who hold the power in that area? I

am advised that my right honourable

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friend the Minister for the middle

east is actually taking up the case

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and is in Geneva today, can he say

what pressure he will be able to

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apply at the UN to persuade them to

release this innocent man? How much

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is known about the situation of

others imprisoned?

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Other men have been detained

recently and are under threat. Can

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he also say what measures can be

taken that senior figures within the

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national Security office and

prosecutors offers are receiving

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instructions from Iran to persecute

this community and the UN special

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rapporteur on the freedom of

religious belief has observed the

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position pattern of persecution of

this community. If you could answer

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those questions I think the whole

house would be deeply grateful.

May

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I first express gratitude to my

honourable friend for raising the

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subject, I think it's always a

proper moment for this house to

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remains matters of individual

justice of this sort and opposing

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the persecution of religious

minorities is a very high priority

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for the Foreign Office and our

diplomatic efforts as we enter this

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year. Indeed the faith has been

persecuted for the best part of one

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and half centuries. This sadly is a

further example of that phenomenon.

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Although this gentleman is not a

British national nor an employee of

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any organisation related to Her

Majesty 's government it is not in

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any way diminish our indignation at

what is happening and our wish to

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try and defend his interests and see

him released. We are to that end

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also in close contact with the

community in London regarding this

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case and also the wider situation in

Yemen. My honourable friend asked a

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number of questions. These are

difficult to answer in the context

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which is essentially a failing

state. This gentleman is held not by

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the official government but by those

deemed to be the insurgent force in

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Yemen. But of course they are

essential to any successful

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political outcome the likes of which

we are trying to pursue. Further

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lines on a particular case like this

is extremely difficult. It is

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difficult of course to try to engage

them even for the main thrust of the

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political solution we would like to

see in Yemen. But to that end as my

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honourable friend says my right

honourable friend the Minister for

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the Middle East is in Geneva today

helping to corral the collective

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effort which we hope can increase

and optimise the influence we can

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have on this case and on the future

of Yemen itself.

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We estimate there are about 2000

Baha'is in Yemen and to try to

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identify the fate of any individual

person within that large number is

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very difficult. We do not have

direct diplomatic representation in

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Sana'a, or if you like the sort of

detailed arrangement with the

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Houthis that would be necessary to

address issues of this detail. In

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terms of Iranian influence, it is

inevitably I think undeniable,

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undeniable to say that their

influence has been drawn into Yemen

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more than was the case five years

ago when we had the initiative to

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seek a replacement for the then

president, but the current president

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I'm afraid has very little influence

in cases such as this and I hope the

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Iranians will use their effort to go

for justice rather than persecution.

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Thank you for granting this urgent

question and I congratulate the

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member for Harrow East in securing

it. He has explained the facts in

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the case and they argue. He was

arrested in southern Yemen in 2013

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and describes the torture he has

retrieved and his family and lawyers

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have not been allowed to see him

during that process. He was forced

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to sign a 19 page confession while

wearing a blindfold and on the basis

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of that conversion was charged of

spreading the Baha'i faith in Yemen.

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This all took place under not the

Houthi revels Billy Knott rebels who

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took power, but the president --

Houthi rebels who took power in

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2015. The responsibility in this

case lies clearly with the Houthis

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and the supporters of them in the

Iranians regime are well known, the

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terrible history of the persecution

of the Baha'is in Tehran. As well as

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Mr Hadara the five other Baha'is are

awaiting trial for no other crime

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other than their religion. We all

agree in this House that they must

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be freed and that Mr Hadara's

sentence must be quashed. The

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question to the Minister, firstly,

will he use his influence with the

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Iranians because they are the ones

who have the influence at this

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moment in time in order to deal with

the Houthis, and he needs to

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pressure as much as he can because

this is something that may happen

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very quickly, and therefore Iranians

are the key players in this and will

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he be able to raise this when it

becomes possible on the political

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talks in Yemen, and will he request

assurances from the Saudi Government

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that if the president is restored in

Yemen he will seek to protect the

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Baha'i faith.

I think these are

perfectly fair questions from the

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honourable honourable gentleman and

the illustrated the complexities of

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Yemen at the moment. Unfortunately

we cannot deal with the government

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in the way we might do with other

countries. It is a failing state

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with the legitimate president

wielding far less power than one

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would wish, and the Houthis wielding

far more power than one would wish,

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salt relations on the consular case,

if I can describe it as such, I very

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difficult, and our ability to have

the influence we would like is far

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less than we would like -- are very

difficult. The Houthis are not

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classic Iranians Shi'ite, so they

have an affinity with Iran but I

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think it would be wrong to say they

take all their orders from them and

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straightforward puppets. The

situation of Yemen suggests the

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position of the Houthis is rather

more complex, but there is an

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undoubted affinity and one that has

grown over the last two or three

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years and because of that we will of

course choose all our diplomatic

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efforts with the Iranians to put

pressure on them to understand there

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is deep concern in this House and

more widely across the world about

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the way Mr Hadara and others are

being treated, so I can absolutely

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assure the House my right honourable

friend the Foreign Secretary, in his

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dealings with the Iranians, which

have increased over the last couple

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of months, will not fail to raise

this issue and the broader issue of

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religious freedom on every occasion.

Can I thank the Minister for making

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his comments today and speaking very

generally unwise on a matter that

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has actually been very complex but I

also pay tribute to Her Majesty's

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ambassador to Yemen who is of course

not in Sana'a, who has done an awful

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lot of work on this, the Yemen

problem, and get through no fault of

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the zone appears to be getting not

very much further, and carry also

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paid tribute to the Minister for the

Middle East who likewise is doing a

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lot? I would like to associate with

the words that member for Birmingham

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has just mentioned about the

influence of Iran in this region.

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Does he agree with me that the rise

of religiosity amongst the Houthis

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is an extremely worrying sign and

something that has risen only in the

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last few years although there has

been many tribal issues in Yemen,

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this is actually thing for Yemeni

history.

I totally agree with my

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honourable friend, and from his

position as chair of the Foreign

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Affairs Committee he and his

committee will be investigating this

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very deeply. I think he is right.

One of the really distressing

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elements of what has unfolded in

Yemen over the last five years, is

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that what was really tribal conflict

has converted into more sectarian

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conflict, and it contains the danger

of escalating further into a deeper

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proxy conflict, and this is exactly

the kind of rising tension and

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complex structure we want through

our diplomatic efforts to reduce and

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de-escalates so we can get to the

point where that can be proper

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political discussions, realistic

ones in that tribal country, to

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bring stability and crucially to

overcome the massive famine and

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disease and rising infant mortality

that is probably the worst aspect

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and most deeply hidden aspect of

what is going on in Yemen at the

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moment.

Firstly, I would like to pay

tribute to the member for bringing

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this issue to the House and the

Baha'i community in the UK for

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raising it with me this week as

well. The Baha'i amenity in Yemen is

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small, as mentioned, but they face

disproportionate persecution by the

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Houthis, by a run. Harbours to

harassment, detention, citing all

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the centres across the portion of

Yemen they controlled -- by Iran,

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facing harassment. The detention of

Hadara is extremely worrying because

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he has been in detention since the

2013 and is also in detention I

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would imagine are extremely

distressed given the developments.

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Noting the context and wider

discussions around the dire

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situation in Yemen, what discussions

had he been able to have with

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counterparts in Iran, who it is

alleged are driving this religious

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persecution? And the Baha'i

community allege this follows a very

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similar pattern of persecution to

Baha'is in Iran which has already

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gone on. In the wider context of

countries choosing to continue to

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use the death penalty, what is the

FCO doing to update its strategy for

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abolition, and what potential

communications could he have with

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the president in exile but, you

know, who is still there in a

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position of some influence? Can he

update us on that?

May I start by

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ushering the honourable lady that

the abolition of the death penalty

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is embedded in all of our diplomatic

and DFID policies whenever we go in

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any country. That is our policy and

we do our best to argue for it will

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ever we possibly can. I have been

going to Yemen for over 30 years, I

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have met the president probably on

about ten occasions, and this is a

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very very complex country with a

very vicious history full of

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conflict and tribal division. My

right honourable friend the Minister

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for the Middle East who as I said

earlier is in Geneva has been

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absolutely brilliant in trying to

gather the maximum diplomatic

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pressure not only for this case but

also for a broader settlement in for

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customer right honourable friend the

Foreign Secretary, and I can tell

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from conversations I have been

having with him on this, really very

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ambitious personally to try to do

his utmost to use British influence

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and British influence in Yemen is

perhaps greater than many of us in

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this has might realise. The voice of

the UK still does matter. And we

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want, as a priority at the Foreign

Office and indeed in Number Ten, to

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do everything we can't use that

historic influence to try to bring

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an end to this disastrous period of

conflict, and famine.

I follow my

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honourable friend and indeed my

friend in condemning the persecution

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of the Baha'i. Can he said at the

role he believes the Government of

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the Sultanate of man can play in

this case but also more broadly in

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successfully the situation in Yemen?

-- Sultanate of Oman.

I congratulate

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him on this question and say he is

fast establishing himself on one of

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the great experts in this House,

particularly on Oman and Yemen and

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the Middle East more widely. The

Sultanate of Oman, great allies to

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the UK, are of enormous importance

in the dynamics in any negotiations

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that may come forward to resolve the

Yemen problem. Their history with

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Yemen matters to them of course, but

they are next door to Iran, and

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their enlightenment in trying to be

an honest and constructive broker

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with the Houthis is much appreciated

in this country, and the Sultanate

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of Oman is a country to which we

tribute enormous value and

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affection, and we look forward to

working with them further as an

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important element in trying to find

a solution to this conflict.

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He is clearly a very wise man

indeed. He would perhaps

because the

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grey beard, if he had one!

LAUGHTER

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I thank the Minister -- perhaps be

called the greybeard. The judgment

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has called for the confiscation of

his goods, Mr Hadara, motivated by

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the desire to repress the peaceful

religious minority. I think the

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information coming through was that

Iran has an influence there. What

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representations as he had apart from

the representations this morning

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upon this case? What action can

vacate to urge the authorities to

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turn this down and what about the

prisoners in jail who need medical

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attention as well?

We have very

little direct contact with the

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Houthis because of the complicated

nature of this Yemeni conflict. But

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through all available channels,

public, UN pressure, the UN Human

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Rights Council, collective comments

within the Middle East through

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ambassadors and other fora, we have

made every conceivable

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representation and I can ensure the

honourable gentleman we will

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continue to do so and perhaps after

this urgent question even more

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noisily and robust Layvin before.

--

robustly than before. What is he

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doing to support the UN political

process?

We have been a full part of

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the UN process ever since the Arabs

Spring of 2011, and the initiative

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which saw the

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replacement of presidents Saleh by

Preston Hadi. As I mentioned, the

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Human Rights Council of last year,

an important for part of that same

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process -- replacement of President

Saleh by President Hadi.

Would use

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this opportunity to restate the

Government was my opposition to

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torture in any circumstances? And

can he see whether there are any new

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concrete initiatives he is picked to

come from the international

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community to try to stop the

conflict in Yemen because of course

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it is that which has enabled this

atrocious decision to be taken?

It

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is very nice to have an opportunity

to fully agree with the honourable

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gentleman. And certainly on the

issue of torture, we are absolutely

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resolute in our opposition to

torture and degrading treatment in

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all its forms. I have also mentioned

earlier that we really want to start

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this year doing everything we

possibly can to get people talking.

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We have done so through gathering

together the Saudis technoratis, the

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UN, and we will continue to work

with them and crucially in trying to

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find direct contact with people in

Yemen -- the Saudis, the Emiratis,

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the UN. I think following the death

of Abdullah Saleh in December last

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year people have been moving to find

this out.

What is the Government

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doing to address the humanitarian

crisis in Iran? Jung I am familiar

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with is indeed from the days when I

was a DFID Minister --

yes, I am

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slow with this. -- familiar with

this. We are concerned by nearly

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half a million keys of cholera,

rising infant mortality, by the fact

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that almost all their food,

virtually all their rights, is

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imported, and it has been important

to open the port of the data --

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Hodeida, but this remains a

difficult and complex problem in

0:21:050:21:07

such a lawless and disintegrating

society.

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May I thank you and your honourable

friend for your dedication to

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religious freedom and human rights,

may my honourable friend agree with

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me that human rights and religious

freedom are an integral part of our

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work in humanitarian and evolvement

aid across the world?

Yes, if human

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rights and the rule of law are not

upheld then the efficacy of

0:21:320:21:36

development is severely reduced.

Therefore I agree and it's written

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as a principle to all the ways in

which differed goes about its

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business.

In my experience the

people of this faith, you could not

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find a more gentle and engaging

people and maybe other persecution

0:21:520:21:57

with great for parents. Can the

Minister tell us what communication

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he has had with representatives of

the faith in this country?

We are in

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contact with the community in the

UK, and as I said earlier, they are

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gentle, if you like sect of Islam

who fully deserved to be defended

0:22:170:22:23

whenever there is in -- inexplicable

persecution which has been going on

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since they were founded as it where

in the middle of the 19th century

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and to be persecuted from the start

and have it persistently thrust upon

0:22:330:22:38

them for over one and a half

centuries is a miserable aspect of

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our relatively recent history.

I

welcome my right honourable friend's

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assurances of opposition to this

terrible death penalty. Could I

0:22:490:22:55

asked what assessment the government

has made of the effect that the debt

0:22:550:23:01

has made on the horrific crisis in

Yemen? And the chances of positive

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resolution?

What I am going to say

it is my own thoughts as someone who

0:23:070:23:13

has taken an interest in Yemen for

so long rather than perhaps the

0:23:130:23:18

official assessment of Her Majesty

's government because this is a

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fairly recent phenomenon and what

happened was Saleh was working with

0:23:220:23:28

them and then he turned against them

and there was a serious battle

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between the two in which he did so

what will now happen to the

0:23:310:23:35

influence he wielded through the GPC

and his own forces I think is

0:23:350:23:41

difficult to assess at this early

stage. I suppose at its simplest one

0:23:410:23:47

could say it's probably reinforced

the power of the bug I hope from

0:23:470:23:55

that position of strength they might

now be prepared to negotiate

0:23:550:23:58

directly with Saudi Arabia and with

others interested so we can reach

0:23:580:24:02

the political

0:24:020:24:12

solution

which is crucial for axis

of humanitarian aid for some 7

0:24:140:24:18

million Yemenis on the brink of

famine.

While support remains closed

0:24:180:24:25

essentially an entire country was

under siege and at risk of

0:24:250:24:31

starvation. The UK Government has

played a significant part in working

0:24:310:24:35

with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to

try to open up the port, I hope now

0:24:350:24:43

supplies are flowing as the master

and that they can increasingly flow

0:24:430:24:48

in order to bring much

0:24:480:24:52