Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Yemen briefly arrests head of Shiite party

SANAA — The head of a Shiite opposition party in Yemen, Hassan Zaid, said that authorities briefly arrested him at Sanaa airport on Tuesday.

"Today they were going to kill me at the airport," Zaid told AFP after his release. "Security forces returned me and my companion from the airport with machine guns pointed at our backs."

"They called us traitors, collaborators and agents of Iran," said Zaid, accusing them of "threatening to kill us."

"They said I had been summoned to come before the prosecution but did not," he said, adding however that he had been unaware of such a request.

A security official said that an arrest warrant was issued against the leader of Al-Haq, insisting the decision to arrest Zaid had nothing to do with any military or security officials.

Mohammed Hassan Zaid told AFP earlier Tuesday that his father was detained at Sanaa airport as he was heading to the Saudi city of Jeddah.

"He was travelling to Jeddah when he was detained and not allowed to leave," said Mohammed, adding that "everybody knows the reason is political."

He pointed the finger at "the national security and those behind it," apparently referring to relatives of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was flown to hospital in Riyadh last month with wounds sustained in a bomb blast.

Saleh has not appeared in public since the attack on his Sanaa palace compound, raising uncertainty over his return to power following anti-regime protests which have gripped Yemen since late January.

However, members of his family retain a firm grip on the impoverished state's security services.

Al-Haq is part of an alliance of parliamentary opposition groups and represents Yemen's Zaidi Shiites, based in the north of the mainly Sunni Muslim country.

Armed Zaidi rebels have been engaged in sporadic fighting with government forces in northern Yemen since 2004. A ceasefire between the rebels and government forces went into effect on February 12, 2010.

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