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Middle East

Law granting Saleh and his aides immunity angers the opposition


Yemen's cabinet has approved a draft law granting immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his aides against prosecution for crimes committed during his 33 year-long rule in the impoverished Arabian state.

The outgoing president is accused of killing hundreds of anti-government activists during a crackdown on the 11-month uprising that has brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Anti-government protesters have been rallying in cities throughout the country calling for Saleh to face trial since the terms of the deal granting him immunity were announced. The decision to extend immunity to his aides is likely to inflame the opposition.

The United Nations said granting an amnesty would be in violation of international human rights obligations.

Saleh signed a deal to stand down proposed by the Gulf Co-operation Council on 23 November. The agreement stipulates that he passes power to his deputy, the long-standing vice-president, Abed Raboo Mansour Hadi. According to the terms of the agreement, Saleh retains the honorary title of president, but power is held by Hadi, who is expected to form a national unity government and call for early presidential elections.

Many among the opposition are sceptical about the sincerity of Saleh's promise to step down. The 69-year-old leader is notoriously unpredictable and has reneged on promises to resign and leave the country before.