SANAA, Yemen — Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Yemen on Sunday, demanding that a transitional presidential council be created to replace embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and that his sons and relatives leave the country.
The demonstrations came as a senior Yemeni official declared that Saleh was recovering from wounds sustained in a June 3 attack on his presidential compound and would soon return from Saudi Arabia, where he is being treated.
“The president is improving, and according to Saudi medics, he is recovering and will be back soon,” Abdu al-Janadi, Yemen’s deputy information minister, told reporters.
Ever since Saleh left the country, his allies have regularly announced that he would return within days, in an apparent effort to prevent his political opponents from declaring him incapable of ruling Yemen, a move that could launch a new political era. Western diplomats have said that Saleh’s injuries are severe and that his return, should it happen, could take several months.
Meanwhile, Saleh’s powerful son, Ahmed, said on Sunday that he “supports the efforts” by Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the opposition “to reach a solution to the crisis the country is going through.” Ahmed Ali Saleh, who heads the elite Republican Guard, and his brother and cousins, who are also in key military positions, have played a pivotal role in preserving the elder Saleh’s regime in his absence.
It was unclear whether Ahmed Saleh’s comments, published on the Yemeni Defense Ministry’s Web site, marked a turnabout or were merely a political maneuver. His troops, along with those controlled by his relatives, remain on the streets of the capital, Sanaa, as well as in other major cities, such as Taiz and Aden.
Yemen’s young activists, who have spearheaded the five-month-old uprising, have demanded the prosecution of Saleh and his sons and nephews for their alleged involvement in corruption and in the killings of protesters.
“If he comes back, he will be prosecuted for the crimes he committed against the people,” said Yasir al-Ruaini, a protest leader in Sanaa, referring to the president.
Al-Qadhi is a special correspondent.