KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Rare protests have erupted against Yemen’s Houthi rebels following the funeral of a popular critic found dead after being detained by the group.
Videos posted on social media showed hundreds of angry protesters carrying the body of Hamdi Abdul Razaq through the streets of Ibb province on Thursday.
Eyewitnesses, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said Thursday’s protests spanned several neighborhoods and protesters were heard chanting “No Houthis after today”.
Activists have accused rebel authorities of abducting, torturing and killing Hamdi Abdul Razaq, who has spoken out against Houthi authorities in videos posted on Youtube. Followers knew him by his profile name, “Al-Mukohl”. He was reported dead by authorities late last week. His family has not commented on the incident.
In a series of videos, Abdul Razaq openly criticized the Houthi regime, calling its administration corrupt and repressive.
Houthi forces, which control Sanaa and most of northern Yemen, have cracked down on dissent in their territories. Some of their opponents have been accused of working with Saudi Arabia, which leads the coalition fighting the Houthis.
Yemen’s devastating conflict began in 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. The Saudi-led coalition, which included the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power. It has since turned into a proxy war, with Iran backing the Houthis and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backing pro-government forces.
In a statement following Thursday’s protest, Houthi authorities said Abdul Razaq had been arrested for insulting another influential family in the area. On Sunday, he escaped through the police station toilet window and was found in a half-built building later that day, he added.
In a statement on Thursday, the head of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, Rashed Al-Alimi, offered his support for the protesters. The Saudi-backed leader said a monthly allowance would be paid to Abdul Razaq’s family.
Mohammed Ali, a senior Houthi official, later said on Twitter that a committee had been set up to further investigate the incident.
His death comes amid a series of reported similar incidents. Earlier this year, a fruit and vegetable seller from the Houthi-held northern territories was abducted and killed, stoking widespread anger across the divided country.
On Tuesday, four activists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to three years by a Houthi court for criticizing Iran-backed rebels on social media, a lawyer said.
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