US Demands Unconditional Release of Jewish Man Held Prisoner by Houthi Rebels in Yemen
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded the immediate release of a Jewish man in Yemen who has been held hostage by Iran-backed Houthi rebels for the last four years.
In an official statement, Pompeo called on the Houthis — who have been waging a civil war against the Saudi-backed government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
“The United States stands with the Yemeni Jewish community in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Levi Salem Musa Marhabi,” Pompeo stated on Tuesday. “Mr. Marhabi has been wrongfully detained by the Houthi militia for four years, despite a court ordering his release in September 2019.”
The statement observed that Marhabi’s “health continues to deteriorate as he languishes in a Sana’a prison, where the threat of contracting COVID-19 is a real possibility. Mr. Marhabi is one member of an ever-shrinking community of Yemeni Jews, who have been an important part of Yemen’s diverse social fabric for thousands of years.”
The statement concluded: “We call on the Houthis to respect religious freedom, stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population, and immediately release Levi Salem Musa Marhabi.”
Between 50 and 100 Jews are estimated to live in Yemen, where the Jewish presence goes back to the 3rd century.
Over the summer, unverified reports appeared in the Arabic press that Jews had been violently assaulted and forced to abandon their properties by Houthi rebels in Kharif District of the ‘Amran Governorate, northwest of the capital Sana’a.