Yemen’s government issued an arrest warrant for al-Mahra province’s former deputy governor, saying he was destabilising the region with calls for protests against the Saudi-Emirati military coalition.
Ali bin Salem al-Huraizy allegedly used social media platforms to stir up tensions between Yemeni tribes and the coalition by claiming Saudi Arabia was occupying al-Mahra, according to the warrant seen by Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
Huraizy was accused of calling for demonstrations with the intention of “distorting the coalition’s reputation”, it said.
The warrant comes weeks after sources told Al Jazeera the kingdom is planning to build an oil port in al-Mahra.
Yemen’s media have reported that Saudi Arabia plans to launch development projects in al-Mahra, which borders Oman, including the construction of a pipeline that would extend to Saudi Arabia to transport its oil.
There have been restrictions and tariffs imposed on imported goods, which come through the al-Mahra border crossing between Yemen and Oman.
Seventy percent of imports to Yemen enter from Oman through this key border crossing, which, along with the province’s seaport and airport, is under the Saudi-UAE coalition’s control.
Residents of al-Mahra protested in April calling on the coalition to scale back its military presence.
In an interview with Al Jazeera Mubasher last month, Huraizy said Saudi Arabia is looking to solidify its military presence in the province.
“We feel like the situation is extremely complex at the moment, because the legitimate government is being held hostage by the coalition,” Huraizy said. “We hope that the legitimate leadership can be more attentive to what’s happening.”
He criticised the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Abdullah al-Jaber, for receiving President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi at the airport in Mahara province, claiming it gave the impression the Saudi ambassador was in control of al-Mahra.
Troops arrived in the area in December 2017, about two years after Saudi Arabia and the UAE – along with other Arab states that are no longer a part of the coalition – launched a military offensive on the impoverished country.
The coalition, which receives US logistical support, says it is concerned by the rise of the Houthi rebels and has repeatedly accused regional rival Iran of arming them, allegations the Houthis and Iran deny.
Al-Mahra has been spared the devastation of the civil war in Yemen as there are no Houthi fighters or armed groups in the province. At least 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting and more than 22 million are in dire need of assistance.
The coalition says its military campaign is aimed at re-installing Hadi’s government.