Political Analysis

Authorities Release Major Southern Movement, Houthi Partisans

Security sources confirmed yesterday the release of dozens of anti-government political prisoners, both in the country’s North and South.

Southern Movement leader Hassan al-Ba’um, as well as Hussein Zayid bin Yahya, head of the pro-Houthi Al-Haq party in Abyan governorate, along with several of their supporters were released by presidential decree on Saturday.

Also, twenty-two Zaidi men detained in Amran governorate north of Sana’a on the 22 November were released, among them influential cleric Muhammad Muhammad al-Mu’akhazi.

Al-Ba’um is regarded as major organizer of the Southern Movement, and had been detained twice before for a total of eight months beginning in 2008.  He was most recently arrested at the beginning of last month a checkpoint outside the flashpoint Southern city of al-Dalea, where he was accused of planning to carry out pro-secessionist meetings.

Hud, a Yemeni human rights organization, as well as Amnesty International had expressed concern over al-Ba’um’s treatment, and called his detention unconstitutional and politicized.  Also, the two centers had cited his poor state of health, and raised the possibility that he had been deliberately mistreated and tortured in captivity.

The sudden release may come on the heels of significant regional pressure to find a comprehensive solution to the Southern Issue, analysts told the independent al-Tagheer website.

In the wake of the recent Riyadh Summit at the beginning of this year, and the recent display of pride among the nations attending the Gulf Cup Tournament in Aden, Yemen’s neighbors may be advocating a more conciliatory position toward the government’s opponents.

In order to foster a national dialogue with a more manageable and coherent Southern Movement, the commentators continued, the freedom and continued influence of key leaders is being encouraged.

Separately, the releases in the North come in the wake of a mass arrest made by authorities after the explosion of serious sectarian violence following twin car bomb attacks on Shi’ite community processions last week.