Yemen's Houthi fighters have been accused of using violence and torture to silence their political rivals as the family of an activist abducted by the group said their son died from wounds suffered in captivity.

The family of Saleh al-Bashiri told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the Houthis were responsible for their son's death after pictures posted on social media purportedly showed their son's bruised and swollen body.

Bashiri was abducted along with three others last week after participating in an anti-Houthi protest in the capital Sanaa.

Fouad al-Hamdani, an activist who was also released by the Houthis told Al Jazeera that he was beaten and forced to make confessions against his will.

"They kept beating me, torturing me for hours. They wanted false confessions, things that I was never involved in.

"They wanted me to lie and say that Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman and other figures were paying us to protest against them, that American and British organisations are instigating the youth in Yemen against them, that they are paying us money to protest against the Houthis, all lies."


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On Saturday, the Shia group that took control of the government in a coup on February 6 fired live rounds to disperse thousands of protesters in central Yemen, as security fears prompted more foreign governments to close their embassies in Sanaa.

The Houthis have been accused of attacking and detaining protesters as well as reporters covering demonstrations against their seizure of power.

Demonstrations erupted in Sanaa as well as in Ibb, Aden, Taiz and Dhamar. In Ibb, four people were injured when Houthi gunmen fired on protesters, medics said.

The Houthis have banned all demonstrations unless they are authorised by the interior ministry, which itself is now under the group's control.

The group dissolved parliament and appointed Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a cousin of the group's leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, as the new president.

The group has defended its coup, calling it a "glorious revolution" that has "broken the shackles of injustice and corruption".


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Since the coup, fears over instability have grown, with the US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia closing their embassies.

On Saturday, Spain, Turkey and the UAE said they would close their missions citing security concerns.

Meanwhile, a draft UN resolution obtained by the Associated Press demands that the Houthi rebels "immediately and unconditionally" withdraw forces from government institutions, release US-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his cabinet from house arrest, and engage "in good faith" in UN-led peace talks.

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But the draft falls short of what the Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would like.

Alleging that Iran is backing the rebels, the GCC states have demanded a resolution that condemns the Houthis and acts under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, meaning it can be militarily enforced.

The draft emerged just two days after Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, told the council that Yemen was "collapsing before our eyes".

On the ground, heavy clashes were reported on Saturday as Houthi fighters fought Sunni tribesmen in the southern mountainous province of al-Bayda.

At least 16 Houthis and 10 Sunni tribesmen were killed, security officials and tribal sources said.

The rise of the Houthis began last year when they descended from their heartland in northern Saada province, fighting their way towards Sanaa and defeating tribal and military rivals along the way.

In September, they flooded into Sanaa, and raided major state institutions and military bases.

The group has repeatedly rejected accusations that it wants to restore a Zaydi imamate, a theocracy that lasted for nine centuries until 1962.

Source: Al Jazeera