Pompeo calls for release of Yemeni Jew held by Houthi militia

Levi Salem Musa  Marhabi was arrested for aiding a Jewish family to make aliyah.

Houthi troops ride on the back of a police patrol truck after participating in a Houthi gathering in Sanaa, Yemen February 19, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)
Houthi troops ride on the back of a police patrol truck after participating in a Houthi gathering in Sanaa, Yemen February 19, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, a Yemeni Jew who is being held by Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen.
In a statement issued by the US Department of State on Tuesday, Pompeo said that the United States “stands with the Yemeni Jewish community” in calling for Marhabi’s release.
“Mr. Marhabi has been wrongfully detained by the Houthi militia for four years, despite a court ordering his release in September 2019,” Pompeo said. “His health continues to deteriorate as he languishes in a Sanaa prison, where the threat of contracting COVID-19 is a real possibility.
He added: “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. We call on the Houthis to respect religious freedom, stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population, and immediately release Levi Salem Musa Marhabi.”
This is not the first time an American official has called for Marhabi’s release. In August, Elan Carr, America’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, posted a call for Marhabi’s release on Twitter, writing: “The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have a record of persecuting religious minorities. Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, a member of Yemen’s small Jewish community, has endured 4 years in prison despite a legal order for his release. We join in calling for his immediate release.”
According to a report in Ami magazine, Marhabi was arrested for aiding a Yemeni Jewish family to make aliyah, as the family brought with them a very rare deerskin Torah scroll, claimed by some to be 800 years old and considered by the Yemeni authorities to be a national treasure.
The Houthi movement has waged a civil war in Yemen since 2015 to seize the country. The official slogan of the Houthi movement (named Ansar Allah – God’s supporters) reads, “Allah is Greater, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.”
Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.