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UK accused of neglecting citizen detained by Houthis in Yemen since 2017

Published: Updated:

The family of a British man held by the Iran-backed Houthis since 2017 and allegedly tortured in Yemen on Friday accused the UK government of apathy about his fate.

Luke Symons, 29, was detained by Houthi militants in southwest Yemen along with his Yemeni wife on suspicion of espionage, which his family strongly denies.

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They say his arm was broken during one interrogation in a bid to force a confession, and that his physical and mental health has degenerated during solitary confinement in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

His wife was released and has been able to visit him periodically in the prison, and is alarmed at his condition, according to Symons’ grandfather Robert Cummings.

“Luke’s going through hell. He’s getting no medical attention, and we’ve been going backwards, not forward, with this (UK) government,” Cummings told AFP by phone from the family’s home in Cardiff.

“The government should ask the question, ‘what do the Houthis want to get Luke released?’,” he said, accusing the rebels of holding his grandson as a “bargaining chip” for unspecified aims.

“But they just won’t ask the question,” Cummings said, alleging inaction both by the Foreign Office in London and by Saudi-based British diplomats responsible for Yemen.

Amnesty International, which this week launched a fresh appeal for UK intervention, demanded that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meet the family.

“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,” Amnesty’s UK chief Sacha Deshmukh said.

Symons was arrested in April 2017, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was foreign secretary, and has never been charged.

The detainee’s MP in the Welsh capital, Kevin Brennan of the opposition Labour party, pressed his case to Johnson in parliament a month ago.

The prime minister replied that the case was “a very sad one.”

“I know that our staff in the (Foreign Office) work very, very hard to try to release people from the positions they find themselves in,” Johnson said.

“Luke Symons is no exception to that,” he said, promising Brennan a meeting with a Foreign Office minister.

But there has still be no meeting, according to the family and Amnesty.

There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Office.

Read more: US forces fired Patriot missiles during Houthi attack on UAE: White House

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