Oman facilitates release of 14 foreigners held in Yemen prison – Ministry


Oman’s foreign ministry said it had helped facilitate the release of 14 foreigners held prisoners by the Houthis and transferred them from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to Muscat on Sunday.

Omani officials said that after communicating with Saudi Arabia for the issuance of the necessary permits, all 14 were transferred on an Oman Royal Air Force plane to the Omani capital, in preparation for their return to their countries.

Among those freed included a British man, his wife and child, seven Indian nationals, a Filipino, an Indonesian, an Ethiopian and a Myanmar national, the ministry added, without giving details of what had led to their detention.

The British government identified the Briton as Luke Symons, saying he had been held without charge or trial since 2017.

“Luke was 25 when he was unlawfully detained by the Houthis.  His son was only a few months old at the time,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

“He was allegedly mistreated, in solitary confinement, and refused visits by his family,” Truss said.

Amnesty International said in February that Symons traveled to Yemen in 2012 where he met and married his Yemeni wife. It said he had been accused by the Houthis, de facto authorities in North Yemen, of spying for the British government though he was not formally charged with any crime.

He was detained along with his wife. His family strongly denies allegations of espionage.

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 capital Sanaa.

His wife was released and has been able to visit him periodically in the prison, and recently voiced concern at his condition, according to Symons’s 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 in February from the family’s home in Cardiff.

Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam said on Twitter that the 14 were released after mediation by Oman but made no mention of the reasons or conditions of the detentions.

A Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in the Yemen war in March 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthis, controls Yemen’s sea and air space which is why its permission is necessary for the flight out of the war-torn country.

Oman is not a member of the coalition.  Earlier this month, the warring sides in Yemen’s seven-year conflict agreed to a nationwide truce for the first time in years, under a UN-brokered deal. (Source: The Straits Times)