Yemen arrests opposition leaders

By MOHAMMAD AL-DILMI  |  March 23, 2003 at 6:14 AM
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SANA'A, Yemen, March 23 (UPI) -- Yemeni authorities have arrested four opposition leaders involved in Friday's bloody clashes between demonstrators and police, activists said on Sunday.

They told United Press International that top officials from the pro-Iraqi Baath Party, the Islamic al-Haq Party, the Nasserite Unity Party and the Popular Federation were arrested on Saturday.

The activists said the four were being questioned in connection with an unlicensed demonstration that turned into a confrontation with police on Friday.

Yemen's National Security Council decided in a meeting chaired by President Ali Abdallah Saleh to form a committee to investigate the clashes, in which two people, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed and 23 others were injured.

Secretary General of the Nasserite Party, Abdul Malik al-Makhlafi, was quoted Sunday as saying that contacts were ongoing with the National Assembly Speaker and legislators to lift his immunity and that of MP and senior member of the same party, Sultan al-Atwani, to interrogate them on the same issue.

Al-Makhlafi said he and al-Atwani told the prosecution it did not have the right to interrogate a member of except with the approval of the National Assembly.

The papers quoted him as urging political parties "and the believers of human rights and freedoms to contest the unconstitutionality of" the restrictive public assemblies law.

He said he was concerned that the arrests were "an introduction to ban demonstrations in light of the terrorist and insolent aggression on our Iraqi brothers. This calls for unleashing the popular Arab freedoms in expressing their rejection of this aggression, not restricting this right."

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