Yemenis rally for Saleh trial despite shootings
AFP, Sunday 25 Dec 2011
Tens of thousands of protesters walk the streets of Yemen’s capital calling for the trail of President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Yemen's capital Sunday calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to face trial, a day after his forces and loyalists killed 13 people at a similar demonstration.

"The people want to bring the slaughterer to trial," shouted the protesters who marched from Change Square, epicentre of the uprising that began nearly a year ago, towards Sittin Avenue in the northern district of Sanaa.

"We won't rest until the slaughterer is executed," they chanted. "We don't want Abdrabuh, Ali Saleh controls him," they chanted, referring to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

Saleh is still honorary president but handed authority over to Hadi last month when he signed a Gulf-brokered deal in which he won immunity from prosecution in exchange for ending his 33-year rule when polls are held in February.

Angry youths have staged defiant protests against the plan, which is backed by the United Nations, despite a bloody backlash by Saleh's forces and loyalists that has seen hundreds of them killed.

But Saleh's General People's Congress party insisted on Sunday that the parliament would confirm the immunity deal.

"Measures will be taken to issue the immunity law as per the Gulf plan" after a parliamentary vote of confidence on the newly formed unity government expected this week, Sultan al-Barakani, who represents the GPC's bloc in parliament, told AFP.

The veteran leader said Saturday that he would soon visit the United States ahead of transferring power following a 21 February presidential election.

A diplomat from one of the countries that has sponsored the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Saleh has presented "a list of 412 people" he wants the immunity deal to include.

The list includes his relatives, aides, and officials who had worked with him during his rule, the source said, adding that Saleh was given a US visa "two weeks ago."

But Sunday's protesters reject any such agreements.

"No guarantee, no immunity to Saleh and to those close to him," they shouted.

The protesters, backed by tens of thousands who were met by gunfire from Saleh's forces and loyalists after they arrived on foot Saturday from the second-largest city Taez, called on Hadi to hand over those responsible for the violence to justice.

"Take up your responsibility and hand the killers of the youths over to justice, or resign," said one of the organisers on a loudspeaker as the demonstrators gathered outside Hadi's residence on Sittin Avenue.

Thirteen people were killed on Saturday when security forces and gunmen loyal to Saleh attacked their march in which they were calling for him to be put on trial.

"Thirteen people were killed and 50 others were wounded by live rounds," a medical official said Sunday, updating an earlier toll of nine dead.

The medic from a field hospital in the capital said that 150 other people suffered from breathing difficulties due to tear gas inhalation.

Another medic who confirmed the toll said three of the wounded had succumbed to their injuries while a fourth was shot dead in another protest later on Saturday.

The objective of the five-day-long "March for Life" that turned deadly on Saturday was to press for Saleh and his top allies to face criminal charges for their roles in the violence committed against anti-regime protesters.

Despite being met by live rounds, water cannon and tear gas upon their arrival in Sanaa's south, the crowds who set off from Taez on Tuesday for the 270-kilometre (167-mile) march to Sanaa poured into the capital where they spent the night in Change Square.