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Army fires at protestors outside newspaper office amidst growing clampdown

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemned Yemen's attempt to use the current anti-terror push to crush human rights after security forces fired on a crowd of protestors staging a 'sit-in' outside the offices of a banned newspaper on 4 January 2010.

"The Ali Abdallah Saleh government is taking advantage of support from foreign powers in the fight against terrorism on its soil to deliberately violate people's rights", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"The international community must remind the Sanna government that the legitimate fight against terrorism can never be used to justify cracking down on the media", it said.

More than 200 demonstrators answered a call from several Yemeni human rights organisations to hold a 'sit-in' outside the offices of the newspaper "al-Ayyam" in Aden, in protest at the forced closure of the daily since May 2009 and to call for its reopening.

Editor Hisham Bashraheel described the scene to Reporters Without Borders: "The security forces started firing on the crowd at 4:07 p.m. (local time). The police even aimed at one of their own number to make it look like the demonstrators were armed, when in fact everyone came to protest peacefully".

"We are surrounded. There are soldiers and police everywhere", he added. "We have heard them calling for reinforcements. The demonstrators are still gathered at the entrance. It will be dark in Aden soon and we fear the worst", the worried editor said.

Security forces previously fired on the offices of the newspaper on 13 May 2009, after the information minister banned the newspaper from printing on 4 May in the name of the principle of the "country's national unity". The situation deteriorated still further on 15 July when a journalist on the newspaper, Anis Ahmed Mansur Hamida, was sentenced to 14 months in prison for "attacking national unity" and "separatism" at the end of a politically motivated trial. He remains in prison.

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