x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hundreds of thousands rally in Yemen to demand Saleh's sons leave

Demonstrators shout 'Saleh's orphans have to leave the country' as his supporters rule out any transfer of power as long Mr Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia.

A protester brandishes his dagger during a demonstration calling for Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit in Taiz on Saturday. Anees Mahyoub / AP Photo
A protester brandishes his dagger during a demonstration calling for Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit in Taiz on Saturday. Anees Mahyoub / AP Photo

SANA'A // Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied across Yemen yesterday, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's powerful sons and other members of his inner circle leave the country.

Mr Saleh is in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for severe wounds he suffered in an attack on his palace early this month.

His two sons, Ahmed and Khaled, command military units and have played a crucial role in protecting their father's regime and keeping his grip on power in his absence.

Yesterday, protesters in the cities of Sana'a, Ibb, Taiz and others, chanting slogans calling for Mr Saleh to step down and for his sons and other family members to flee. Demonstrators shouted: "Saleh's orphans have to leave the country."

Yemen's deputy information minister yesterday ruled out any transfer of power as long Mr Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia.

"Our moral values do not allow us to discuss a transfer of power as the president lies on his sick bed" in Riyadh, where he was flown on June 4 for treatment, Abdo Al Janadi said.

Mr Saleh, 69, who has faced nearly six months of protests against his 33-year-long autocratic rule, has not appeared in public since the attack that killed 11 people and wounded 124 others, among them senior officials.

In his absence, the vice-president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, has come under pressure from the parliamentary opposition and the West to assume power, while street protesters demand he form an interim ruling council. "The president is in good health. He is recovering but his discharge from hospital will be decided by his doctors," Mr Janadi said.

Yemen's political crisis began in February with protests by largely peaceful crowds calling for Mr Saleh's resignation.

A crackdown has killed at least 167 people, according to Human Rights Watch. Mr Saleh has three times retracted from signing a deal put forward by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council that calls for him to step down.