Calls for action from UK government to free British national detained in Yemen

By Mason Quah

A LEADING humanitarian organisation has called on the UK government to escalate their efforts to free a British national detained for five years in Yemen.

Luke Symons, 29, from Cardiff was arrested at a security checkpoint in Ta’iz in 2017 for holding a British passport and has allegedly been tortured repeatedly to force a confession that he was spying for the British Government.

In a phone call with his family earlier this week, Luke said his physical and mental health were severely deteriorating. This concern was echoed during a visit by his wife a month prior.

Despite being held for nearly five years, no charges have been made for any crime. Amnesty International, working alongside the family, has called for the Houthi authorities to release Symons immediately and for the UK government to make stronger efforts to secure his release.

In the early periods of his confinement Luke was beaten until his arm was broken.

He is currently held in solitary confinement at a Sanaa prison.

Luke’s MP, Kevin Brennan raised the case during Prime Minister’s Questions but no further action has been taken publicly by the government.

He said: “Luke Symons is a young man from an ordinary Cardiff family with ties to Yemen because of Cardiff’s seafaring past.

“He is the innocent victim of the conflict who has been held without charge or trial for almost five years.

“As he approaches his 30th birthday I call for his captors to release him on humanitarian grounds so that he can be with his wife and child.
“I also call for the UK government to begin a new initiative to help secure his release before his mental and physical health deteriorate any further.”

The Symons family have grown increasingly concerned at the lack of progress.

Luke’s grandfather, Robert Cummings, said: “Luke is now in a worse situation than when he was arrested – there’s been no meaningful progress in five years.

“The FCDO isn’t getting anywhere, and the family are now urgently requesting a meeting with Liz Truss to try to find out what the Government is actually doing to help Luke.”

An foreign office spokesperson said: “We know this is a difficult time for Luke Symons and his family. Our staff have been working intensively to secure Luke’s release. We remain in close touch with his family who we have been supporting since 2017.”

They have stated that they will not be providing any ongoing commentary.

Part of the circumstances leading up to Luke’s arrest was the refusal of UK authorities to issue a travel visa to Luke’s wife, a Yemeni national, when the couple attempted to escalating conflict in the region.

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Amnesty International UK said: “Luke has already endured almost five gruelling years behind bars and it’s long overdue that the Government properly engaged with his family and exerted sustained pressure on the Houthis to get him out of jail and back home to Cardiff.”

Featured Image: Pixabay

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