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Yemeni ex-ambassador accused of leading separatist protests

Posted by FREE ADEN on June 9, 2009

2 hours ago

ALeqM5hxyPmrBy3bwMBvzVluhnfoCxhl_g(AFP) — A court trying a former Yemeni ambassador for urging the secession of the country’s south heard evidence on Tuesday that the defendant was leading separatist demonstrations, court documents showed.

Qassem Askar, who was an ambassador until 1994, led protests calling for the separation of the country’s impoverished south and communicated with Yemeni opposition leaders abroad, the documents revealed.

He is being charged with “crimes aimed at harming national unity, jeopardising the constitution and instigating an armed revolt against the authorities,” according to the charge sheet read out at the trial’s opening earlier this month.

Askar is from Lahij province, near the port city of Aden, capital of former South Yemen. He argues that the court specialised in terrorism and state security issues is not qualified to handle his case, which he calls political.

Askar, 58, reiterated on Tuesday his refusal to respond to the charges, saying he would wait until a lawyer is present.

Activist Fady Hassan Baoum, who was involved in protests in south Yemen, went on trial in Sanaa on Monday charged with committing criminal acts that harmed national unity.

At least 18 people have been killed, including five members of the security forces, in sporadic clashes between police and protesters since fighting broke out in late April.

The government has blamed the unrest on southern rebels demanding secession, but many in the impoverished south have been protesting against bad living conditions.

South Yemen was united in 1990 with North Yemen to form the current republic.

Socialists who formerly ruled the south led a secession bid in 1994 that sparked a two-month civil war before the uprising was crushed by northern forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.


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