British man held for five years in Yemen without charge is freed


Show caption Luke Symons had been held in solitary confinement and told his family his physical and mental health were deteriorating. Photograph: BBC grab Yemen British man held for five years in Yemen without charge is freed Luke Symons was captured by Houthi rebels and accused of being a spy but was never put on trial Joe Middleton Sun 24 Apr 2022 18.01 BST Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share via Email

A British man who was held captive in Yemen without charge or trial for five years has been released from jail.

In 2017, Luke Symons, 30, was detained by Houthi rebels at a security checkpoint on suspicion of espionage.

On Sunday, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, confirmed Symons “would shortly be reunited with his family”. She thanked Omani and Saudi negotiators as well as UK Foreign Office staff as he was released alongside 13 other foreign nationals in Yemen.

Symons, from Cardiff, has longstanding connections to the war-torn country and travelled there in 2012, where he met his wife, Tagreed, a Yemeni national.

The couple, who have a young son, attempted to flee the country during the conflict but Symons was stopped at a checkpoint where he was found with a British passport and accused of being a spy, a claim his family strong denies.

Amnesty International has long campaigned for his release and was told by his family that he had been beaten by his captors in an attempt to extract a confession and his arm had been broken.

The Briton was being held in solitary confinement in a prison in Sana’a, the capital, and told family members the conditions were affecting his physical and mental health.

Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, tweeted that it was “terrific news” that his constituent had finally been released.

He added: “Thanks to all at the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] and most of all to Luke’s family for their tireless campaigning.”

Brennan said Symons’ wife and son had left Yemen with him.

Truss said: “I am pleased that Luke Symons, who was unlawfully detained, without charge or trial since 2017 in Yemen, has been released.

“Luke was 25 when he was unlawfully detained by the Houthis. His son was only a few months old at the time. He was allegedly mistreated, in solitary confinement, and refused visits by his family.

“He has been flown to Muscat and soon he will be reunited with his family in the UK.

“We thank our Omani and Saudi partners for their support in securing his release.

“I pay tribute to our excellent staff for their hard work in returning Luke home.”

Symons’ release comes after a two-month truce was implemented in Yemen on 2 April. It is the first nationwide ceasefire in the past six years in the Middle Eastern country’s deadly civil war, which erupted in 2014. That year, Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sana’a and forced the internationally recognised government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.