The crowd in the main square in Sana'a is calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they decried as "the butcher" during a funeral procession through the square, to be put on trial.
100,000 Yemenis demand wounded leader's ouster
SANAA // Nearly 100,000 Yemenis are protesting in a main square of the capital demanding the wounded president, currently outside the country, be removed from power.
The rally, held after weekly Muslim prayers, was the biggest since President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded in a blast that hit a mosque where he was praying in his presidential palace on June 3. Heavily burned, Saleh was rushed to Saudi Arabia for treatment along with a number of top officials from his regime who also were wounded in the blast.
But the president's allies say he could return within days and have been resisting U.S. and Saudi pressure to start now on a handover of power. Saleh, who has ruled for nearly 33 years, has held out against a wave of daily protests since late January demanding his removal, throwing the country into turmoil. Before he was wounded, opposition tribesmen rose up and battled for two weeks with government forces in fighting that shook the capital.
In Sanaa's Taghyeer, or "Change," Square on Friday, the crowds of protesters demanded that the vice president – who is acting leader in Saleh's absence – allow the creation of a new government. "The people want a transitional government," they chanted.
The opposition tribesmen marched through the square with the bodies of 41 of their fighters they say were killed a week ago when troops bombarded the Sanaa home of one of their leaders. The tribe's chief, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, led the march of around 10,000 people from the square to a cemetery in the capital, as protesters chanted, "The people want the butcher put on trial," referring to Saleh.
In another part of the city, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away, several thousand Saleh supporters held a rally outside his presidential palace. There were no reports of clashes between the two sides.Similar anti-Saleh protests were held in cities around the country, including Taiz, Yemen's second largest city, where tribesmen have moved in to protect protesters who came under attack last week in a fierce crackdown by government troops. In recent days, government forces and tribesmen have been fighting in the city, trading gunfire and shelling.
Since Saleh's evacuation, Sanaa has been under a fragile cease-fire, with government troops still deployed in the streets where they once battled al-Ahmar's tribal fighters. The situation has raised fears of a new explosion of violence if a political solution is not found soon – or if the president does indeed return.The United States and Saudi Arabia are pressing Saleh's ruling party to move ahead with a Gulf Arab-mediated agreement under which he would formally leave power, a new unity government would be formed between the ruling party and opposition parties and new elections would be held within two months.
But youth activists leading the street protests reject the deal, saying it would allow elements of Saleh's regime to remain in power. They demand the creation of a transitional government made up of technocrats.