Protesters in Sanaa carry portraits of Tawakul Karman (photo Reuters)
The arrest of a prominent opponent of the regime of president Ali Abdallah Saleh has sparked a new wave of protest in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Tawakul Karman, a journalist and member of the Islamist party Islah who was a leading figure in last week's protests in Sanaa, was detained by police early on Sunday and charged with unlawfully organising demonstrations. Her arrest was the sign for a new wave of student protests in Sanaa on Sunday, days after demonstrations against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh broke out across Yemen, inspired in part by the recent ouster of Tunisia's president Ben Ali. Later in the day, police in Sanaa arrested 18 other activists, including the heads of two human rights groups, as they left a meeting to discus Karman's arrest.
The arrests of the activists in the capital sparked a protest of several hundred at Sanaa University. The demonstrators, chanting 'release the prisoners' and holding pictures of Karman, tried to march to the state prosecutor's office, who a security source said had ordered her arrest. Riot police carrying batons beat them back. Police also beat up two TV cameramen filming the protests. The students demanded that president Saleh leaves office. ''We demand Ali Abdullah Saleh leave, because we have no other option," said Hani al-Jonid, a Sanaa University student.
President Saleh, in a speech aired on state television, reiterated an offer of dialogue with opposition groups and said it was wrong to link Yemen to the events in Tunisia.'We are a democratic country and not Tunisia which had placed mosques under surveillance and shut everyone's mouth,' he said. The president also announced plans to raise the salaries of government employees and military personnel by $47 to $234 a month.
In the southern city of Aden, the site of frequent protests by separatists, a demonstrator was shot dead by police who were trying to stop a march, residents said. In a separate incident in the restive southern town of Lawdar, a suspected al Qaeda gunmen shot dead a soldier, a local security official said.