Asharq Al-Awsat Tours Mukalla Jail as Officials Slam Qatar for Secret Detention Centers Rumors

Asharq Al-Awsat Tours Mukalla Jail as Officials Slam Qatar for Secret Detention Centers Rumors

Tuesday, 5 June, 2018 - 06:00
General Director of the Mukalla central prison Hassan Baalawi. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Mukalla – Abdul Hadi Habtoor
General Director of the Mukalla central prison in the Hadramaut region, Hassan Baalawi, accused Qatar of fabricating claims that secret detention centers were set up in liberated regions in Yemen.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Qatar paid individuals to promote such a “lie.”

Doha sought to create confusion and tarnish the image of stability that was established in Hadramaut and other areas that were liberated from the Iran-backed Houthi militias, he added.

He added that the doors of Mukalla’s central prison will be opened to anyone seeking to inspect the conditions of the inmates.

Access will be granted “to those who want to report the truth, not hired figures who are following the agendas of suspicious groups,” he stated.

Asharq Al-Awsat toured the central prison with commander of the second military region, Aweidan Salem Aweidan, and the facility’s human rights team, in order to inspect its services and conditions.

Aweidan refuted claims of the existence of secret detention centers in Yemen, stressing: “The needs of inmates are provided for and we have noting to hide.”

The Mukalla central prison receives detainees arrested in Shabwa, Socotra and al-Mahra.

“It holds over 200 al-Qaeda members and so far, over 80 cases have been referred to the criminal court,” Baalawi revealed.

A ward is also dedicated to woman inmates.

“The jail can accommodate 500 prisoners and we are currently preparing designs to establish new wards,” he added. This effort is directly supported by the member-states of the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

He credited the coalition with helping renovate the prison after it was at one point overrun by al-Qaeda.

Asharq Al-Awsat also toured the facility’s medical center as Baalawi recounted how its medical team saved the life of an al-Qaeda member after he was injured during clashes with security forces.

“He was brought to us hanging between life and death. He was treated for four months and is now doing fine. We did not approach him as an al-Qaeda member, but we did what our religion and laws dictate to us,” he added.

There is no doubt that al-Qaeda members will be tried before the judiciary over the crimes they committed,” he continued.

The prison caters to the health needs of each inmate regardless of the charges laid down against them, he stressed.

On the rehabilitation of extremists, Baalawi said: “We cannot allow them to leave with the same sick thoughts that are spreading poison among our people.”

He therefore demanded the establishment of a rehabilitation center for inmates. Efforts are ongoing to set it up in the Falak region.

Head of security at the central prison, Hani Bashkil, revealed that Qaeda inmates are granted family visits every Thursday. Other inmates enjoy family visits on Saturday.

Some juvenile Qaeda member, aged 17 and 18, are also held in the prison and efforts are underway to ensure that they complete their education.

Head of the True Human Rights Institution, Ahmed Omar al-Lahwary, assessed as excellent the conditions at the central prison.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the facility provides good medical services to the inmates, while also refuting claims of secret detention centers in Yemen.

“Evidence is needed to back those claims and so far, we have not seen any,” he added.

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