Brother of Yemen rebel leader stripped of immunity

SANAA, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Yemen's parliament lifted on Wednesday the immunity of a lawmaker whose brother is leading Shi'ite Muslim rebels battling government forces.

Politician Yahya al-Houthi is now in Germany where he has been seeking political asylum. His brother Abdul-Malik is the leader of a rebel group battling government forces and which the government says wants to install Shi'ite religious rule.

"The parliament revoked his immunity. If he returns to Yemen, he would be arrested," a senior government official told Reuters.

The move came after a request from the government which accuses the MP of instigating strife and involvement in what it described as terrorist activities.

About 105 soldiers and more then 90 rebels have been killed since the beginning of 2007 in sporadic but fierce clashes in the mountainous area of Saada in the north of the Arab country, officials say.

Yahya was in Libya before travelling to Germany last month after Yemen asked Libya to extradite him. It was not immediately clear if the government had asked Germany to hand him over.

An aide of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said the move was not a surprise.

"It was expected, he already asked Germany for political asylum," the aide told Reuters by telephone.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the army last month to crack down on Abdul-Malik and his followers.

Sunni Muslims make up most of Yemen's 19 million population while about 15 percent are Shi'ite Muslims.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States. Houthi's supporters are not linked to al Qaeda.