Protesters on Friday held massive demonstrations in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and in Taez as they buried 19 people killed by government forces over the past two days in both cities.
A smaller number of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s loyalists staged a counter rally on the capital’s Sabiin Avenue in support of the embattled leader, witnesses said.
Under the slogan “Remaining Peaceful is Our Choice,” anti-regime protesters gathered in Sittin Road in Sanaa’s northern district chanting: “Peaceful peaceful, no to civil war,” witnesses said.
“The Yemenis’ voice is one: we will bring corrupt Saleh to justice,” they said as the veteran leader clings to power despite protests that have rocked the country since January, and international pressures urging him to step down.
The crowds took part in the funeral of three people killed in clashes between tribesmen and security forces in the northern Al-Hasaba district, the same sources said.
In central Sanaa, around 2,000 people who protested there against Saleh’s regime clashed with government loyalists using rockes and batons, witnesses said. No casualties were reported.
A massive protest was also held in the second-largest city Taez as demonstrators took part in the funeral of 16 people killed in deadly clashes that have rocked the city over the past two days, organisers there said.
Saleh’s opponents also announced the creation of a “legal committee,” which organisers said will work on gathering evidence and witness reports from citizens on “the crimes of Saleh and the remnants of his regime” to present it to the International Criminal Court.
Peaceful protests have degenerated into battles between rival army troops, security forces and protesters, and between security forces and tribesmen, leaving hundreds of people dead across the impoverished country.
Meanwhile, a defiant Saleh has so far refused to sign a Gulf initiative, supported by the international community, that would see him step down in return for immunity from prosecution for himself and for members of his family.