BAGHDAD - Iraq's U.S.-led administration Sunday shut down a newspaper that is a mouthpiece for Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr, accusing it of publishing articles that incite violence against American troops.
Ali Yasseri, editor of the weekly al-Hawza newspaper, said dozens of U.S. troops padlocked the newspaper's offices after ordering staff to leave.
A protester holds an American lock placed on the gate of weekly newspaper al-Hawza's headquarters in Baghdad March 28, 2004 after it was shut down. Iraq's U.S.-led administration on Sunday shut down a newspaper that is a mouthpiece for Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, accusing it of publishing articles that incite violence against American troops. REUTERS/Akram Saleh
"They told us they would arrest us if we did not leave. They said our articles incite people against America," Yasseri told Reuters outside the newspaper offices.
U.S. soldiers handed him a letter from U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer, citing a breach of an order issued last year that bans incitement to violence.
"These false articles not only mislead readers but constitute a real threat of violence against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens who cooperate with the coalition in the reconstruction of Iraq," a letter signed by Bremer said.
The letter referred to a series of articles it said had incited hatred, including an editorial entitled "Bremer follows the steps of Saddam."
"This is a violation of our rights," Yasseri said.
Hundreds of Shi'ites later gathered in Baghdad to protest against the ban on the newspaper.
Last July, the U.S.-led administration closed down another newspaper for inciting violence. The Arabic-language satellite television news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have also faced sanctions from the administration and the Iraqi Governing Council for allegedly violating the law.
Sadr, a young and radical Shi'ite cleric, has often spoken out against the U.S. occupation, in contrast to many other Shi'ite groups that have sought to work with occupying forces.
© 2004 Reuters Ltd