Yemen Frees Houthi Supporters in Bid to End Saada Standoff
Yemeni authorities yesterday released 627 supporters of a rebel preacher held on charges of involvement in clashes with government forces which left hundreds dead in the north of the country. The Higher Security Committee, headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said in a statement that the freed men were all detained in connection with the rebellion staged by the late Shiite preacher Hussein Badruddin Al-Houthi in the northern province of Saada. The releases were made in compliance with the general amnesty announced by President Ali Abdullah Saleh last September, the statement said. “They were released after they had pledged not to return to their perverseness, and to be good citizens,” said the statement, carried by official media.

Expressing hope that the mass release would help end the standoff in Saada, the committee called on the freed men to “resume their natural life and to practice their basic rights and freedoms in the framework of political pluralism in a way that serves the country’s supreme interests.” Security officials said the amnesty did not include 36 members of the Believing Youth group standing trial currently over involvements in attacks against military targets in Sanaa last year. Saleh said last May that Al-Houthi’s revolt was a “foreign conspiracy” to topple the republican regime.

Officials have said the bloody fighting in Saada caused financial losses amounting to 52 billion riyals (about $272 million). They said 532 houses and 22 schools in the rebel areas were damaged by the battles, and that some were completely demolished.
Posted by: Fred 2006-03-04