Yemen's former president, a powerful ally of Houthi forces in a four-month-old civil war, said he wanted his exiled successor tried for treason for enlisting Saudi-led attacks against the Iranian-allied militia.
In remarks published on Monday by the Huffington Post website, Ali Abdullah Saleh said the airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition supporting his successor, President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi were a mistake because the kingdom, formerly an ally of Yemen, is now regarded by Yemenis as an aggressor.
Army units loyal to Saleh have fought alongside the Zaydi Shi'ite Houthis throughout the conflict, and his stance may prove pivotal in any diplomatic efforts to resolve Yemen's future given his wide support base in the army and bureaucracy.
"The fleeing Hadi abandoned the responsibilities handed to him and summoned the aggression against his people and homeland, and he is now an enemy of all Yemenis," the Huffington Post's Arabic edition quoted Saleh as saying in an interview.
"The fleeing Hadi committed high treason when he summoned Saudi and foreign intervention.... He must be tried, must be transferred to the International Criminal Court for the crimes he committed, and this is what we are seeking."
A spokesman for Hadi was not immediately available for comment. Hadi has said he summoned Saudi-led forces to help Yemen against a group that had committed a coup against his internationally-recognized administration.
Breaking out of their northern strongholds, the Houthis in September 2014 seized the capital Sana’a and pushed aside Hadi, an ally of the United States and Saudi Arabia, who fled to Riyadh.
The Houthis swept southwards and seized the major port of Aden early in the war, but lost it to southern-based forces and the Saudi-led coalition in mid-July.
Despite being forced to step down in 2012 under a Gulf-brokered transition plan after mass protests against his three-decade rule, Saleh won immunity in the deal and has remained a powerful political player operating behind the scenes.
Saleh said he was grateful for Saudi Arabia's support under the late King Abdullah, who died earlier this year. But he condemned the kingdom's current role, saying it was "harboring criminal elements" behind a bomb attack in his palace mosque in 2011 which killed senior aides and disfigured him.
"Saudi Arabia, after its aggression against Yemen, is no longer a sisterly or friendly country, but rather an aggressor against our people and Yemeni people," he said.