A Welshman has been released from detention in Yemen after being held without charge or trial for five years.
Luke Symons, of Cardiff, was 25 when he was seized in 2017 by the Houthis, a rebel group fighting the Yemen government in the civil war.
He was seized as a suspected spy, a claim his family have called “ridiculous”.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss thanked “our Omani and Saudi partners for their support in securing his release”.
Ms Truss said: “I am pleased Luke Symons, who was unlawfully detained, without charge or trial since 2017 in Yemen, has been released.
“He was allegedly mistreated, in solitary confinement, and refused visits by his family, he has been flown to Muscat [in Oman], and soon he will be reunited with his family in the UK.”
He was one of 14 people whose release Oman said it helped to secure. They have been held in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa.
They have now been transferred to Oman’s capital, in preparation for being flown back to their own countries.
Lost passport amid chaos
Mr Symons converted to Islam in his late teens, taking the name Jamal.
Aged 20, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca before travelling to Egypt, and then Yemen, where he taught English and married.
When conflict broke out in 2015, he and his wife Tagreed left the country, but could not return to the UK because she had lost her passport amid the chaos.
They returned to Yemen and had a baby, but continued to explore ways of escaping the bloody civil war that has claimed thousands of lives.
Two years later, as he presented his British passport to withdraw money to fund his family’s passage out of Yemen, he was arrested as a suspected spy.
How did the civil war start?
In 2015, Saudi Arabia was alarmed by the prospect of the rebel group, the Houthis taking control of Yemen, fearing it would become a satellite of its rival Iran.
The Saudi-led coalition backing the country’s official government has spent seven years fighting the Houthis.
However, the uprising from the Houthis started in 2011 with Yemen’s long-standing authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, being forced to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The new president was overwhelmed by the county’s economic and security problems, and most of Yemen’s armed forces felt more loyalty to the ousted president than they did to Mr Hadi, and the Houthis took advantage of his weakness.
Because of the war, Yemen is now facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Mr Symons, now 30, and his wife were detained by Houthi rebels in south west Yemen on suspicion of espionage, which his family strongly denies.
His relatives have said that his physical and mental health had degenerated during solitary confinement in the capital Sanaa.
His wife was released earlier and she has been able to visit him periodically in the prison.
‘Going through hell’
Earlier this year she voiced concern at his condition, according to his grandfather Robert Cummings, and he told the Agence France Presse news agency in February that his grandson was “going through hell”.
The case had been taken up by Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, who said it was “terrific news” that he had been released.
The 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 East country’s civil war that erupted in 2014.
Eilidh Macpherson, of Amnesty International, said: “It is wonderful news and a huge relief that Luke Symons has finally been released from jail in Yemen after five years locked up in torturous conditions.
“Mr Symons was an innocent victim of the conflict in Yemen and should never have been detained in the first place, the unbearable conditions he faced – including solitary confinement – were taking a terrible toll on Luke’s well-being, with his mental and physical health suffering.”
She said Amnesty eagerly anticipated him finally being reunited with his family and able to travel back to Cardiff.