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Yemen: Protesters Demand Saleh Prosecution

Despite immunity under Yemen's transfer of power agreement protesters want the country's former president indicted.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 12/21/2011, 9:56 PM

Thousands of anti-regime protesters in Yemen's second largest city of Taez on Monday began a march to the capital of Sanaa to demand outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh stand trial for killing protesters.

"At least 15,000 protesters have signed up for the protests. Our message is to express our dismay over the international community's stand, who dealt with our cause as a political crisis between the ruling party and the opposition, not as a revolution," a protester told Gulf News on telephone.

"We want to emphasize that [there shall be] no immunity for killers or those who looted the country. Women acted on their initiative and joined in."

The protesters are expected to arrive in Sana'a's Change Square, the epicenter of anti-regime protests, by Saturday.

The march comes over a week after the Saleh government finally agreed to sign a US backed transfer of power agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council and the formation of a new government.

Under that agreement Saleh was granted immunity from prosecution and will serve as Yemen's "honorary president" for three months.

During that time the new unity government – headed by Saleh's vice president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – is tasked with planning new elections and drafting a new constitution.

The new unity government is divided equally between opposition figures and members of the Saleh government.

Also in Taez, unknown gunmen yesterday shot dead a soldier and injured two civilians in one of the city's streets, a local journalist said. The soldier was said to be from a breakaway unit that switched loyalties to support anti-regime forces.

Supporters of Saleh retorted that they had arranged a march from Sana'a to Taez in support of "the constitutional legitimacy," of Saleh's reign.

"Thousands of protesters left the capital on foot today heading to Taez city, backing the constitutional legitimacy and President Ali Abdullah Saleh," the Ministry of Defense website reported yesterday.

The transfer of power agreement came after numerous about-faces by the Saleh government during the almost year-long unrest that has gripped the impoverished, divisive, and often conflict torn country.

The continued unrest despite the agreement has led many observers to question whether Yemen's weak central government will be able to unify a populace with deep tribal and regional divisions. 

Yemen - in addition to the anti-regime protests - is currently facing a tribal insurrection in the north and strong Al Qaeda led terror insurgency in its south.