x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Two southern Yemen independence activists jailed

Two leading activists in the movement demanding independence for southern Yemen were jailed yesterday for their roles in supporting secessionists.

SANA'A // Two leading activists in the movement demanding independence for southern Yemen were jailed yesterday for their roles in supporting secessionists. The Yemeni state security court in the capital sentenced Hussein Muthana al Akil, a professor at Aden University, to three years in prison for supporting the growing secessionist movement. Fadi Hasan Ba'om, the son of a senior leader in the movement, was given five years for calling for the separation of southern Yemen, instigating civil disorder and violent acts and inciting sectarian division and hatred among the Yemeni people.

The sentences were the latest setback for the southern movement, which is facing increasing pressure from the embattled Yemeni government in Sana'a. Judge Ridhwan al Namir said al Akil was guilty of publishing "false information and inciting an armed disobedience and committing crimes aimed at harming national unity as well as abusing the president of the republic". The court said al Akil published articles in which he wrote that "the northern occupation forces are looting the oil of the south".

Al Akil refused to appeal the verdict. "I reject this verdict and the count and I hold you, judge, responsible," he said. Ba'om was sentenced in a separate room by Judge Muhsin Allwan. He also refused to appeal the verdict. "This is a political verdict that I consider a [honour] medal on my bosom," Ba'om told the judge. The court was filled yesterday with opposition party members and democracy activists.

Mohammed al Kubati, a socialist member of parliament inside the courtroom, shouted upon hearing the verdict: "This is nonsense; it is a politically motivated verdict." Mr Allwan responded by telling him: "You are an MP and should not interfere with the judiciary which is independent." When the MP shouted again, the judge ordered court guards to remove him from the courtroom and angrily shouted: "I swear we will not have mercy upon anybody who comes here on charges of harming [the country's] unity."

A heavy presence of security men and armoured vehicles surrounded the court building during the sessions; television cameras and photographers were not allowed to attend. On Sunday, the same court sentenced Qasim Askar, a former ambassador to Mauritania, to five years in jail for his support to secessionist groups in the south. Ahmed Bamualem, a former MP, was sentenced last week to 10 years in jail. And Ali al Saadi, another senior southern leader, was sentenced to one year and three months in jail for the same charges.

For the past three years, the south of Yemen has been hit by increasingly angry protests by people complaining about economic and political marginalisation. In 1990, the Marxist-led south and tribal-dominated north made peace after years of fighting to form Yemen, but the deal between the People's General Congress and the Yemeni Socialist Party fell apart and a political crisis developed, leading to civil war in 1994.

The socialists were crushed by the army of the present president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and since then, the south has long decried neglect and marginalisation. Scores have been killed and hundreds arrested in repeated clashes between government troops and activists of the Southern Movement. @Email:malqadhi@thenational.ae