SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Dozens of prisoners at a detention center in southern Yemen controlled by the United Arab Emirates said Monday they have started a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detentions without charges or trials.
About 100 prisoners in the Beir Ahmed prison in the southern city of Aden said in a statement leaked to the media that their open-ended strike would continue until their demands are met. They said Aden prosecutors have ordered more than 70 detainees released but the prison’s Emirati commanders refuse to let them go.
A Yemeni security official, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations, said the government has no control over the prison or the power to release the detainees. “It’s all in the hands of the Emiratis,” he said.
The detainees, before they were transferred to Beir Ahmed, were among hundreds rounded up on terror charges and held in secret UAE-run detention centers in southern Yemen where prisoners were reportedly tortured. The UAE has denied the allegations.
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Earlier this year, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government complained in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that it has no control over the detention centers in southern Yemen or over the newly-formed, UAE-backed security forces established there.
Aden is the base of Yemeni government forces battling the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, since 2015. The government forces are allied with a Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE and is backed by the United States.
Over the past two years, the UAE has created a zone of influence in southern Yemen, sidelining Hadi’s government. Hadi, forced by the Houthis to flee the country, lives in exile in Saudi Arabia and there have been claims the kingdom has prevented him and his sons, along with ministers and military officials, from returning to Yemen.