A prominent Yemeni politician, journalist and supporter of the country's Houthi rebels, Abdel-Karim al-Khewani, was assassinated Wednesday morning in front of the family's home in the capital, Sanaa, relatives said.
His son Mohammed al-Khewani said a pair of armed men riding on a motorbike opened fire and gunned down his father as he exited the house.
Mohammed al-Khewani said the attackers left his father in a pool of blood and sped away. The elder Khewani was transferred to a hospital and died there of his wounds.
Abdel-Karim al-Khewani's editorials were once the scourge of Yemen's veteran autocrat, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The writer accused the ruler of 33 years of styling his son to succeed him.
Growing closer to the Houthi movement when Arab Spring protests ousted Saleh in 2012, Khewani was among several delegates who represented the group at talks convened to map out reforms, which were to be incorporated into a new draft constitution before the Houthis captured Sanaa in September.
The liberal writer, remembered fondly for his muckraking past, nonetheless earned the ire of some activist allies when he backed the group's dissolution of parliament in February, which critics called a coup.
"Khewani was widely respected for his courageous stands in the face of harassment and imprisonment due to his sharp criticism of the government," Adam Baron, a friend of Kheiwani and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Al Jazeera. "The timing of his death amidst growing tensions in Yemen only raises fears that the nation is heading towards even more violence."
Khewani, the former editor of Al Shora newspaper, endured years of harassment by Saleh's regime for his coverage of the government conflict with the Houthi community in Yemen's northern Sa'dah province.
Over the years, Khewani faced intimidation, death threats and detention, including a one-year prison sentence in 2004 for "insulting the president," according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In 2007 he was abducted by gunmen who beat and threatened to kill him if he continued to write critically of the government. In 2008, Khewani received Amnesty International's special award for human rights journalism under threat.
IFJ President Jim Boumelha, who accepted the Amnesty award on his behalf, called Khewani a "very special journalist."
"He is one of those rare breed of journalists, some of the bravest and the most determined. Those who are prepared to sacrifice their personal and professional lives for the public good," the IFJ quoted Boumelha as saying.
At that time, Khewani was serving a six-year prison term for allegedly conspiring with Houthi leadership, the IFJ reported. He served about one year in prison before being released, due in part to international pressure.
Yemen's lively press and civil society have been struck hard by political tension since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in 2012 following months of protests demanding democratic reform.
The country is torn by a power struggle between the Houthis in the north and the U.N.-recognized President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has set up a rival seat in the southern port city of Aden with Gulf Arab support.
Al Jazeera and wire services. Amel Ahmed contributed to this report.