Canadian freed from Syria after Lebanese mediation
Published on: Wednesday, August 14, 2019

BEIRUT: A Canadian citizen held in Syrian prisons since last year and freed after Lebanese mediation said he had no idea if anyone knew he was still alive. 

Kristian Lee Baxter appeared emotional and at times jittery at a press conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut. The Lebanese general who mediated his release said Baxter was heading home. It was not clear when Baxter was released from Syria. 

Details of Baxter’s detention were not immediately available but Canadian media reported last December he was detained while in war-torn Syria, where he was traveling seeking an adventure. Canadian officials declined to provide further information, citing privacy provisions. 

Lebanon’s General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said Baxter was detained for what Syrian authorities considered a “major violation” of local laws, adding that authorities there may have considered the incident security related. He didn’t elaborate. 

Baxter appeared briefly on a podium, shared with Ibrahim and the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux. He was emotional and choked on his words as he tried to hold back tears. 

“I’d just like to thank the Canadian embassy for helping me,” Baxter said, reaching to hold the shoulder of the Canadian ambassador. “I would like to thank the Lebanese for helping me get free. I thought I would be there forever, honestly.” 

He added, wiping his eyes: “I didn’t know if anyone knew if I was alive.”

Baxter’s release marked the second time Lebanon has helped free a foreigner held in Syria. 

Last month, Ibrahim also mediated the release of an American traveler, Sam Goodwin, held in Syria for two months.

The circumstances of Goodwin’s detention in northeastern Syria in May were unclear. 

“I think the work and effort we did shortened the period of (Baxter’s) detention and as you see he is on his way to Canada,” Ibrahim said Friday before Baxter spoke. 

Syrian prisons are brimming with government opponents after nearly nine years of civil war. Rebels were also responsible for a wave of kidnapping for ransom, while Islamic State militants beheaded foreign captives as part of their terror campaign. 

It is not known how many westerners and foreign nationals are held alive in Syria, if any. – AP



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