Luke Symons family calls for UK inquiry over Yemen hostage ordeal

Reunited with his family in Wales after five years in a Houthi jail

Briton Luke Symons returned home this week after five years in a Houthi jail.

The family of former Houthi prisoner Luke Symons say they will push for a UK inquiry into why he remained in jail in Yemen for five years on trumped-up spying claims before any deal was made to bring him home.

Mr Symons, 30, was released from prison at the weekend and reunited with relatives in Cardiff, Wales, on Wednesday after Houthi officials agreed to free 12 foreign prisoners following talks involving Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Supporters of Mr Symons said the details of the deal remained unclear but they are angry that it took so long for him to be released. They say the British government failed to put sufficient pressure on the Houthi regime through regional allies to secure his release.

“We want some sort of inquiry,” said Robert Cummings, his grandfather, who led the campaign for his release. “That young man has been through hell in the last five years and there was no need for it.”

The parliamentary foreign affairs select committee has begun an inquiry into state-hostage taking but Mr Brennan believes that mistakes made in his grandson’s case warrant a separate investigation.

Houthi officials had promised the UK that he would be released in a mass release in 2020 but talks broke down at a late stage. Two Americans were taken out of the country, but Mr Symons remained in jail for another 18 months, where he had been beaten and mistreated.

Mr Symons had tried to leave after war broke out and before his 2017 arrest when he travelled to Djibouti. He returned to Yemen when he was unable to get travel documents for his wife.

The couple and their 5-year-old son, born shortly before Mr Symons’ arrest, were finally flown to Muscat, Oman, on Sunday before travelling to the UK after medical tests.

“For us, the system doesn’t work,” said Mr Cummings. “They [the British government] make promises but they totally ignore people.”

The UK’s foreign ministry said it had consistently raised the case at senior levels within the Houthi regime and had been working “intensively” to secure his release. Following his release, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “I pay tribute to our excellent staff for their hard work in returning Luke home.”

Mr Symons was reunited with members of his family on Wednesday including some he had never seen after travelling to Saudi Arabia in 2012 to further his knowledge of Islam. He moved to Yemen where he met and married his wife two years later.

Mr Cummings, who met him at London’s Heathrow Airport, said: “It was brilliant, unbelievable. I couldn’t say anything, I just grabbed him and he introduced me to his wife and child.

“He’s happy, he’s glad that he is home but he only slept two hours a night when he was in prison. And he hasn’t slept properly for the last four days.”

Mr Symons, who is due to have further medical checks, plans to remain in Cardiff with his wife and child, his family said.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 10:00 AM
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