|Demonstrators in Yemen demanded the trial of Yemen’s outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa [Reuters]|
Thousands of protesters in Yemen have been walking from the southern city of Taiz to the capital Sanaa to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh face trial and to denounce a new government that would spare him prosecution.
Saleh has agreed to hand over power, but in return he has been granted immunity from prosecution. The marchers want the outgoing Saleh prosecuted for his involvement in the 11 months crackdown on anti-government protests.
“The goal is to bring down the regime and try its figures, to refuse giving Saleh and his aides any parliamentary immunity“
– Waddah al-Adeeb,
Waddah al-Adeeb, an organiser of the march which started on Wednesday said, “The goal is to bring down the regime and try its figures, to refuse giving Saleh and his aides any parliamentary immunity.”
“And we reject the unity government, because it just reproduces the regime itself,” al-Adeeb said by telephone from some 100km south of the capital Sanaa.
He was referring to a government split between members of Saleh’s party and opposition parties tasked with leading Yemen to the vote in February.
It is also to oversee the disengagement of troops loyal to Saleh, including a well-armed unit led by his son, and those of
tribesmen and rebel army factions that have waged war in Sanaa and elsewhere.
In a statement, Saleh’s party said the protest march violated pledges in the agreement to end mass demonstrations,
warning it “would not be responsible for the collapse of the initiative, while others violate its letter and spirit”.
Separately, a source in the office of Mohammed Basindwa,Yemen’s new prime minister, said a ministerial committee had been formed to run the flagship airline Yemeniyya, in response to a strike by workers demanding the sacking of Abdeul Khaleq al-Qadi, its top executive and Saleh’s son-in-law.
An official in the southern province, Abyan, said that seven government troops and as many as 20 Islamist fighters had been killed since Tuesday in a fresh round of fighting in that city.
In another southern province, Lahej, a local official said six men suspected of membership in al-Qaeda had been detained.
Saleh’s opponents accuse him of fomenting chaos and ceding territory to Islamists in the region to underline his claim that only his rule can contain the country’s al-Qaeda branch, which has planned attacks abroad, abortive to date, from Yemen.
The United States, which long backed Saleh as a cornerstone of its “counter-terrorism” policy and has carried out drone
attacks in Yemen, has thrown its weight behind the plan to replace him, seeing him as more a liability than asset now.
The government’s role is laid out in the transition pact, echoed by a UN Security Council resolution, which would make
Saleh the fourth leader to surrender power after mass protests that have redrawn the political map of the Middle East.
UN Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar, who is attempting to implement the transition plan, said on Wednesday that efforts
were underway to arrange treatment for Saleh, who suffered burns and other injuries in an apparent assassination attempt in June.
The UN, which endorsed a pact brokered by Yemen’s neighbours to stave off civil war by easing Saleh from power, said he would need medical treatment abroad while the country prepares to elect a successor.
The struggle over Saleh’s fate has fanned fears in Washington that the Yemeni wing of al-Qaeda could grow stronger if the Arabian Peninsula state descends further into chaos.
Yemeni government and opposition officials said that efforts to pull pro-Saleh forces and those of tribal leader
Sadeq al-Ahmar from the capital’s Hasaba and Soufan districts, where they have clashed sporadically, had stalled.