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Rights group: Hundreds of protesters abducted, tortured in Yemen

From Hakim Almasmari, for CNN
November 1, 2011 -- Updated 2009 GMT (0409 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • HOOD: More than 200 are being tortured in government custody
  • Most of the protesters were taken October 18 during a protest in Sanaa
  • One youth was shot in the head in a security vehicle, HOOD director says
  • A Yemeni official says protesters were arrested because they were violent

(CNN) -- More than 200 youth protesters were abducted by the Yemeni government during a march two weeks ago, Yemen's most prominent human rights organization claims. The group also contends that hundreds of youths are being tortured in government custody.

Most of the protesters were taken October 18 while marching in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, in front of hundreds of witnesses, officials for the group known as HOOD told CNN.

A senior Interior Ministry official, meanwhile, confirmed that a number of youth activists were imprisoned, but maintained that they were arrested for taking part in violence.

Accordingt to the rights group, among the people apprehended were eight women, one of whom is receiving medical attention by the government after getting shot by government forces.

HOOD added that more than 200 youths are now being tortured in government facilities after being detained.

Abdul Rahman Barman, the executive director of HOOD, told CNN that the torture used by the government is deadly and hundreds of innocent youth are paying the price.

"One of the youths was shot in the head inside a security vehicle when he called (President Ali Abdullah) Saleh a killer," said Barman.

He added, "Since international media outlets are not allowed to enter the country, these violations go unrecorded and kidnappings continue to increase.

CNN has been attempting over the past two months to gain greater access inside Yemen, but government restrictions on foreign media have prevented it.

"At least 10 youth are now mentally ill due to the torture they underwent," Barman said, citing interviews with relatives of those who were tortured.

HOOD said reporting of the October 18 incident was delayed because of difficulties in contacting families and receiving confirmation.

A number of eyewitnesses said that the kidnappings take place during almost every march, and that those who are released come out with scars and wounds covering their bodies.

"Its inhumane. They put them is small rooms with snakes and keep them their for days with results in them getting no sleep," said Bakeel Shraif, a youth activist who participated in many marches against the government. "When they are released they don't have an idea where they are anymore."

HOOD released much of this information in an official news conference earlier in the week, during which medics and family members gave their accounts of apparent torture and the condition those abducted were in when they were released.

Youth activists who saw the marchers being taken away also spoke at the news conference.

But a senior Interior Ministry official denied the rights group's accounts.

"Not all the marchers are peaceful. We deny that any kidnappings took place by the government, but those who cause chaos must be arrested in favor of public safety," said the official, who is not authorized to talk to media.

Abdu Ganadi, the deputy information minister, said that the protesters attack security forces while marching, which then puts the government in a position to stand up for the law.

"The protesters are not peaceful anymore. Still, the government is trying to keep matters as peaceful as possible. Peace is the only solution to rid the country from the crisis we face today," said Ganadi.

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