Yemen’s Houthis say Saudi pilots will only be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners

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An official in Yemen’s Houthi-led National Salvation Government (NSG) has reiterated that Saudi pilots currently being held captive will only be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in the kingdom.

In an interview yesterday with Al-Masirah TV, the head of the National Committee for Prisoners Affairs, Abdulqadir Al-Murtadha, stated: “We have assured the other party that the Saudi pilots will not be released from prison except in exchange for the Palestinian prisoners in Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “The negotiation rounds in the prisoners’ issue in 2020 were distinguished by the fact that they ended with implementation, unlike the previous rounds,” noting that 1,087 prisoners of the Houthi-allied Yemeni army and “popular committees” were freed earlier in the year; 670 prisoners through UN brokered agreements and 417 prisoners through local deals.

“The enemy thwarted 30 exchange deals during 2020, which were agreed upon through local parties to liberate more than 600 prisoners from both sides,” according to Al-Murtadha.

READ: Houthis ask Egypt to mediate for release of Hamas prisoners in Saudi Arabia

“We released 150 prisoners during 2020, including 64 children who were brought into the battles by the forces of aggression, while the rest were released for humanitarian reasons.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia incarcerated 68 Palestinians and Jordanians following a mass trial which has raised concerns by Human Rights Watch (HRW) over issues relating to due process. Some of the detainees had been held without charge for nearly two years.

Among the Palestinians detained is Mohammed Al-Khodari, who is over 80 years old and a high-ranking official from the Gaza-based resistance movement Hamas. Alike the other detainees he was charged on vague accusations relating to terrorism.

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In March the leader of the Houthi movement known as the Ansarallah, Sayyid Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, extended an offer to the Saudis to release Hamas members held in Saudi in exchange for one of the captured Saudi coalition pilots held in Yemen along with four Saudi soldiers. The “much-appreciated initiative” was met with praise by Hamas who in a statement said it valued the “spirit of fraternity and sympathy” for the Palestinian people and their cause.

READ: STC refuses to cooperate with Yemen govt’s inquest into Aden blast

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