Yemeni court orders an opposition newspaper closed for six months

A Yemeni court has ordered an opposition weekly newspaper closed for six months after finding it guilty of publishing an article that it said incites sectarianism and tarnishes Islam's image, a newspaper executive said Sunday.

In its Saturday verdict, the court also ruled that Abdul Rahman Abdullah_ the editor-in-chief of the Tagammu newspaper, which is owned by an opposition party_ and Abdul Rahman Saeed, the article's author, be barred from writing for a year, said Mansour Hael, the paper's deputy editor-in-chief.

Hael denied the article in question hurt Islam's image and said his paper would appeal the verdicts, claiming the ruling was an attempt to silence the opposition. The editor and the writer were also fined the equivalent of US$250 (about Ђ213) each.

"This verdict sets a dangerous precedent that encroaches on liberties and on the freedom of expression," Hael told The Associated Press. "It shows that the judiciary is influenced by the regime and its oppressive apparatuses."

Yemeni officials were not immediately available for comment.

On Sunday, the print house that publishes the Tagammu refused to print the paper citing the court order, Hael added.

The article in question appeared in the paper last September and discussed political struggles in the country in 1968, drawing parallels between that time and today's Yemen.

"The ruling exploited religion, which is part of the intimidation and the terror that the press in Yemen is being subjected to in a bid to silence the opposition," Hael added.

In recent months, scores of journalists tackling corruption and other sensitive subjects have been subjected to arrests and harassment as watchdog groups accuse the government of cracking down on freedom of the press ahead of next year's presidential elections, AP reported. V.A.

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