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Yemen holds security-risk Australian woman

CANBERRA, Australia, June 4 (UPI) -- A political storm is brewing in Australia over whether the government declaring an Australian woman a national security risk led to her arrest in Yemen.

Shyloh Jayne Giddins, a Muslim convert who has lived with her daughter Ameena, 5, and son Omar, 7, in Yemen since 2006, was interviewed May 14 by Yemen's National Security Bureau in Sanaa.

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Two days later she was arrested along with two Bangladeshi women, one of whom has since been deported.

Giddins's children are under house arrest in the family's Sanaa apartment.

Yemeni authorities haven't said what charges Giddins may face or how long she will be detained. But she is suspected of having links to al-Qaida.

An Australian Embassy official in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, traveled to Sanaa to visit Giddins in jail.

During Australian senate committee hearings this week it was learned that the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, David Irvine, had Giddins's passport canceled April 10 for what were called "national security reasons."

But a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith refused to say what those reasons were or whether his department provided information to Yemeni authorities prior to her arrest.

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"It seems highly suspicious that the Australian government some eight weeks ago canceled Giddins's passport and then three weeks after that Yemeni security have decided to arrest and detain her," Giddins's Australian lawyer, Stephen Hooper, said.

Abdul Rahman Barman, Giddins's lawyer in Yemen and a member of the human rights group Hood, said too often poor intelligence information is to blame for the wrong people getting arrested in Yemen.

"In light of wrong U.S. intelligence information, people get arrested without any legal justification. Dozens of innocent people are being arrested and accused of working for, or belonging to, al-Qaida," he said.

Hood has demanded that Yemeni authorities immediately release Giddins, who is in Yemen legally. Police have promised to allow a German friend of the mother to take the children into her home, Barman said.

Hood is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization set up in 1998 by lawyers, people working in the media and some government members of the Yemeni parliament.

Giddins's parents said they were concerned for their daughter and grandchildren. They have been in touch with consular officials, who are lobbying for the return of the children's passports and their return to Australia.

Giddins was born in a small town in New South Wales and moved to Sydney 10 years ago to work as a nanny. She met a man called Mohamed Touma and they married after she converted to Islam.

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But she separated from Touma and moved to Yemen with her children and has been teaching English at a Sanaa university.

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