Two leading activists in the Southern Movement demanding independence for southern Yemen were jailed 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.
Presiding 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.
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.”
March 31, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The recent sentencing against opinion leaders rather than street activists, although not unheard of in Yemen, presents a further escalation of the situation. It will be another reason for rallying southerners around the secession cause. The reaction of a sitting MP against the verdict demonstrates the degree towards trust in the regime has deteriorated, even by MP’s from the south, who are seen as the closest of the southern politicians to the Sana’a regime.
In addition to the already deteriorated security situation in the south, the approach taken by the highly politicized judiciary is to escalate the situation on another front, by creating “political martyrs” and further eroding any support the central government has from southern politicians, including MP’s. The harsh prison sentences will make reconciliation even more difficult and substantially increase the risk of further civil unrest.
The way that the court hearings were conducted also undermine any impartiality the Yemeni judiciary has, further eroding the international confidence in the fragile state.