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Yemeni President Saleh granted immunity

By Hakim Almasmari, For CNN
January 21, 2012 -- Updated 1131 GMT (1931 HKT)
In return for immunity, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down next month after more than 33 years in power.
In return for immunity, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down next month after more than 33 years in power.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Protests take place in 13 provinces Saturday, an organizing committee says
  • Demonstrator: Saleh "killed many, and now the opposition wants to forgive him"
  • Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down from power in exchange for immunity
  • Yemen's parliament also accepts Vice President Hadi's presidential nomination

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Yemen's parliament approved a controversial law Saturday that ensures President Ali Abdullah Saleh complete immunity from prosecution.

The law was delayed for weeks as Saleh insisted on specific changes guaranteeing his aides partial protection from legal actions.

In return, Saleh will step down from power in Yemen next month after ruling the country for more than 33 years.

Yemeni Information Minister Ali al-Amrani said the law was the best option for the country and that people can now look forward for change and development.

"The law was a pivotal point of debate, and now we are looking forward to February 21 (when) a president would lead the country," al-Amrani said.

"Many changes took place in the law to make it accepted by all factions, but in the end, the efforts were worth it," he added.

During the same session, the parliament also accepted Vice President Abdurabu Hadi's nomination for presidency.

The vice president's office hailed the move and called it a success after long negotiations over the past week.

The immunity law was always linked with parliament accepting Hadi's nomination for president. Saleh supporters refuse to pass Hadi's nomination until the immunity law passed.

The immunity law was a key element in a Gulf Cooperation Council power transfer deal.

Since the president signed the power transfer deal in November, tens of thousands of young activists have marched in provinces across Yemen. They have vowed to have Saleh tried for the deaths of hundreds of unarmed protesters.

The United Nations' envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, arrived in the country last week to ease the tension after fears grew that the deal would collapse.

Though the deal was hailed by opposition parties in Yemen, youth protesters and international rights groups called the immunity a violation of international law.

Youth protesters continued marching on Saturday, rejecting any immunity for Saleh or those who served under him over the last three decades. Protests took place in 13 provinces across Yemen, according to the Revolution Youth Organizing Committee.

The largest protests took place in Sanaa, where many continued pushing for Saleh's prosecution.

"He killed many, and now the opposition wants to forgive him," said Salma al-Nusari, a youth activist in Sanaa.
Blood that Saleh spilt will not be forgiven, and we will continue demanding his prosecution until our demands are met."

Presidential elections are expected to take place February 21.

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