Security forces attack Badr Religious Center after head demands release of Sa’ada detainees [Archives:2007/1092/Front Page]

October 8 2007

By: Mohammed Bin Salam
“I am being personally targeted by the authorities,” claims the Head of the Badr Center for Islamic Studies, “because of our support for the Sa'ada detainees.”

SANA'A, Oct. 7 ) Dr. Al-Murtadha Z. Al-Mohatwari, in an exclusive interview with The Yemen Times, described how 14 military vehicles loaded with security personnel attacked the center on Saturday night. “The forces destroyed the main gate after besieging us for more than ten hours,” he said.

Dr Al- Mohatwari had delivered the Friday sermon at the Big Mosque demanding people maintain their solidarity with the detainees and continue to press for their release; and he had called for a sit-in after prayers.

He explained what happened next: “a group of security officials visited me after the prayer and criticized me for my speech, requesting me to help stop the sit-in of Sa'ada families and their sympathizers. However, I refused to fulfill their demands, instead demanding that they release those detainees quickly.”

He went on to say, “There are hundreds of detainees. The majority of those detainees are children and poor citizens. They are not affiliated to any assemblies or political parties. They are poor and do not have any source of income. Those families have lost their providers, living in miserable conditions. These difficult situations call on us as Muslims to stand together in humanity to sympathize with them.”

He pointed out that the president had issued a pledge during his meeting with scholars and scientists (including Al- Mohatwari) a few days earlier to release 500 detainees but unfortunately it hadn't taken place yet.

In a media release, one of the center's students said, “we were surprised to see a huge number of central security forces (special forces) surrounding the center without knowing why. However, the forces broke into the center at ten pm through doors and walls under the disguise of searching for a car having a police number plate.”

Moreover, units of the Central security and anti-riot forces as well as street police dispersed the sit-ins staged by the relatives of Sa'ada detainees. They also attacked journalists, as well as detaining human rights activists.

The relatives of the detainees had gathered since 1 pm in Al-Saba'ean square near the presidency building. However, the anti-riot forces prevented them from staging a sit-in, compelling the protesters to head to the freedom square in front of the cabinet.

According to eyewitnesses, elements of the central security, anti-riot forces and street policemen attacked the journalist Abdullah Al-Wazeer, editor in chief of Al-Balagh newspaper. They also attempted to confiscate the camera of Abdull-Rasheed, editor in chief of Hawar website as well as to detain human rights activists. They chased a number of the teachers of Badr School for legal sciences.

Eyewitnesses mentioned that the protesters refused to leave the freedom square unless the central security forces release the socialist leader Mohammed Al-Makalih who came to participate in the sit-in. He had been detained and accused of inciting people to continue holding sit-ins. However, he was released after a short time when protesters shouted loudly at the sit-in.

Al-Balagh newspaper issued a notice last Saturday in which it said that Abdullah Al-Wazeer was attacked last Friday by a central security personnel headed by a major rank official, while he was covering the two thirty pm peaceful sit-in.

“Despite the security group being informed that Al-Wazeer was working as a journalist, they attacked him using cudgels, trying to drag him to the military vehicles but the protesters stopped that,” according to the paper.

Al-Balagh also demanded that “the authorities put an end to such frequent violations against journalists” affirming that these acts backfire the on regime, damaging its reputation. “These violations will make journalists more tenacious of their rights in covering news events.”