Shiite Moslems Demand to Free Their Religious Leader

Shiite Moslems staged a sit-down strike opposite Palestine Hotel, where international reporters are living, downtown Baghdad on Tuesday. They are demanding to release Sheikh Muhammad al-Fartusi, their spiritual leader, whom Americans arrested the day before.

Sheikh Fartusi, who represents the religious school of the Holy city of Najaf, 180 km south of Baghdad, was arrested in Al-Hikma mosque in Al Sadr City, /formerly Saddam's City/, Baghdad's quarter inhabited predominantly by Shiites. The reason for the arrest is nit known as yet.

"We do not know why Sheikh Fartusi was arrested," said Karrar Ali, a student of the Najaf religious school. "But we will be sitting here until Americans free him," he said.

They arrested a widely respected sheikh instead of the criminal Saddam Hussein, he complained. "If this is what they mean by freedom and democracy, we do not want such freedom and democracy. This is the freedom we enjoyed under Saddam Hussein, when we were arrested without any reason whatsoever." The protest act is involving several hundred people.

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