Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Come and collect jailed Briton says Houthi official

Luke Symons, 27, has been in jail for nearly three years after being arrested for spying

Luke Symons, a Briton, who was detained in Yemen in 2017
Luke Symons, a Briton, who was detained in Yemen in 2017

A Briton detained in Yemen despite being cleared for release a year ago can now be collected from prison, a senior Houthi official has claimed.

The official. who signed the release papers in December 2018, said that Luke Symons, 27, could be collected by representatives of the International Red Cross from a political prison in Sanaa, where he has been held since 2017.

Mr Symons was arrested and accused of spying for the UK but an investigation found no evidence of espionage, according to a document signed by Sultan Al Samei, a member of the Houthis' top decision-making body.

Relatives of the Briton, who is married to a Yemeni woman and has a son, 3, said efforts to have him freed after the release order were blocked by officials in charge of the prison.

“It was agreed he would be handed over to the International Red Cross," Mr Al Samei said. "You can liaise with the International Cross to come and take them.”

The Red Cross has tried to see Mr Symons in jail but was rebuffed, Mr Symons’s family said in the UK.

He has only been visited by one UN official during his time in custody and was taken out of the prison for that meeting, the family said.

The Red Cross on Thursday announced the repatriation of 128 detainees from Saudi Arabia to Yemen in hopeful signs of a diplomatic end to fighting after five years of war.

It said it saw the release as a “positive step” and hoped that it “will spur further releases and repatriations of conflict-related detainees”.

The Red Cross did not respond to request for comment regarding the plight of Mr Symons.

Robert Cummings, the detained man’s grandfather, has criticised efforts of the UK government to secure his release.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We’ve expressed concerns about Mr Symons’s case with the Houthis, and in March the then foreign secretary, Jeremy, Hunt met them and raised the issue.

“The Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, met the family most recently in October and we have remained in contact with them since Luke’s detention in 2017.”

Updated: December 3, 2019 12:27 AM

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