Yemenis Rally to Protest GCC Plan Giving Saleh Immunity

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets across the country today to reject the Gulf Cooperation Council’s mediation plan and demand the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In what they dubbed “Friday of Loyalty to Martyrs,” protesters gathered in the capital, Sana’a, and other cities including Taiz and Hodiedah calling for the immediate end of Saleh’s three-decade rule. They denounced the plan backed by Gulf Arab states, which would protect Saleh from prosecution if he steps down within 30 days.

“We refuse any immunity from prosecution given to the killers,” said Samir Mohammed, a protester in Sana’a with a Yemeni flag wrapped around his neck and a paper poster on his head reading “Leave, you mass killer.”

More than 100 people have died as security forces repeatedly fired on demonstrations that began on Feb. 11, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum for Human Rights in Sana’a. The main opposition group has agreed to sign the GCC plan, though it has threatened to pull out if Saleh’s forces continue to kill protesters.

The GCC plan calls for Saleh’s departure to be followed by elections two months later. It’s due to be signed in Saudi Arabia on May 2, Saleh told Russia Today in an interview yesterday, according to an Arabic transcript on its website.

Demonstrators Injured

Six demonstrators were injured today in the port city of Hodiedah when armed government supporters opened fire with live bullets on a crowd of hundreds of thousands, said activist Abdulhafiz Mujaab in a phone interview. Two of the injured protesters were kidnapped by the attackers, and police used batons to beat the demonstrators, arresting 12 of them, he said.

In Sana’a, activists buried the bodies of some of the 12 protesters killed two days ago, in a cemetery near the site of the rally.

Saleh may not sign the GCC plan if Qatar’s representatives attend the signing ceremony in Riyadh, the president told Russia Today. He accused Qatar, where Al Jazeera television is based, of funding and conspiring against Yemen and using the television station to bring chaos to the country.

“We will have reservations on the signing if Qatar’s representatives were present” at the ceremony, Saleh told Russia Today.

Tens of thousands of Saleh’s supporters also gathered today near the presidential palace. Their term for today is the “Friday of Constitutional Legitimacy.” In an address to the rally, Saleh called his opponents “traitors and agents.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mohammed Hatem in Sana’a at mhatem1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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