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Yemen: Protests intensify after arrest of journalist Tawakkol Karman

The arrest of journalist Tawakkol Karman has sparked protests in Yemen and more calls for regime change.

Yemen protests
Yemeni female students protest on October 31, 2010, outside Sanaa University. Yemen saw more protests on Sunday, January 23, 2011, after the arrest of a journalist. (Gamal Noman/AFP/Getty Images)

The arrest of journalist and rights activist Tawakkol Karman sparked more protests in Yemen on Sunday as a growing movement pushes for regime change. 

Karman, the head of Women Journalists Without Chains, was arrested Saturday in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, and is being held in the city's main prison, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders.

Karman has been one of the leading figures in Yemen's recent wave of protests, which have called for political reform. The protests look to be partly inspired by the so-called Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia that led to the ousting of the north African nation's president in mid January.

"We called on the Yemeni people to wage a revolution against their corrupt leaders," Karman told CNN at a protest last week. "We gathered to salute the Tunisian people."

Hundreds joined the protests on Sunday, and clashes with security officers left one person dead in southern Yemen and about 20 detained in the capital.

Yemen's official news agency, SABA, ran a government statement announcing that Karman was arrested for "undermining the public social peace" by organizing unlicensed marches and inciting others to commit acts of rioting and chaos.

Her supporters argue the arrest was over her criticism of the government.

In an apparent effort to appease the demonstrators, President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a dialogue with opposition groups, announced plans to raise government employee salaries and stressed that Yemen was not like Tunisia.

"We are a democratic country and not Tunisia, which had placed mosques under surveillance and shut everyone's mouth," he said in a speech aired on state television as reported by Reuters.

Saleh has been in power for more than three decades, and Yemen's parliament is considering a draft amendment to the constitution that would allow him lifelong rule.

Meanwhile, Tunisia's interim government broke its commitment to press freedom and shut down the country's most popular private television channel Sunday, The New York Times reported.

"Reacting to the news on Sunday night, several Tunisians said the move seriously damaged the credibility of the interim government," the Times reported. "The fate of the network is widely seen here as a crucial test of the new government’s commitment to civil liberties."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/middle-east/110123/yemen-protests-tawakkol-karmans-arrest