AL-MUKALLA: The Houthis have detained 30 people who took part in a protest in the Yemeni capital that condemned the killing of a young man and demanded bringing the perpetrators to justice.
A video circulating on social media that showed five people torturing a man enraged the public and have triggered protests in Sanaa since Saturday.
Since ousting the internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in early 2015, the Houthis have suppressed protests or any sign of dissent, pushing hundreds of Yemenis into fleeing to government-controlled areas or going into exile.
Journalist Osama Sari, who is affiliated with the Houthis, said that the group’s security authorities had detained 30 people for exploiting public anger about the killing in order to incite people to protest. He added that police had confiscated posters calling for revolution.
Hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital on Sunday to protest the death of Abdullah Al-Aghbry and demand that security services in the Houthi-held city prosecute the killers.
“With all the principles of chivalry, manliness, magnanimity and your conscience, we urge you to support the deceased, Abdullah Al-Aghbry,” read one of the posters.
Activists shared a graphic video showing men attacking someone, later identified as Al-Aghbry, with electrical wires and a dagger and leaving him to bleed to death. Al-Aghbry, who was in his 20s, worked in a mobile phone shop. The five people, including the shop’s owner, beat him with the wires and stabbed him with a traditional Yemeni dagger called a jambiya, even as he pleaded for his life and begged them to stop.
Under public pressure to disclose details of the crime, the Houthis said that five people who appeared on a video had been detained and admitted to killing the man. But activists challenged the Houthi account.
“We want to know why they killed him,“ said Samer Al-Salahi on Facebook.
Some reports said the man had been accused of stealing smartphones from the shop, while others said he had been beaten to death after uncovering a prostitution ring and blackmail led by his employer.
Yemeni activists and officials said the Houthis had been living in panic since the beginning of the protests, fearing they could spill over to other areas under their control and turn into an uprising.
Journalist Sami Noaman said that the protests challenged the strict Houthi ban on rallies in areas under their control.
“Tens of thousands of people have spontaneously gone out, breaking the Houthi aura of terrorism that they have been building for a long time to intimidate people,” he said on his Facebook page.
Information Minister Muammar Al-Aryani shared a video of the protest and said it showed that people did not trust Houthi security services or judicial authorities.
“The massive popular protests in Sanaa against the torture and killing of Abdullah Al-Aghbry by five murderers, including an officer in the Houthi-run Preventive Security, confirms the lack of confidence in the militia’s procedures and fears that it might manipulate the case and hide involvement of its leaders,” the minister tweeted on Monday.
Western diplomats also expressed their shock over the killing.
The British ambassador to Yemen, Michael Aron, tweeted that he was appalled and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice “as soon as possible.”