Canadian man held in Syria is freed in Beirut

by Reuters
Friday, 9 August 2019 11:43 GMT

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BEIRUT, Aug 9 (Reuters) - A Canadian citizen held in Syria since last year was released in Lebanon on Friday and broke down in tears at a news conference, saying he thought he would be held forever.

Kristian Lee Baxter, who was detained in Syria last year, appeared alongside Lebanese security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who last month mediated the release of U.S. citizen Sam Goodwin from Syria, and Canadian Ambassador Emmanuelle Lamoureux.

Ibrahim said Baxter had been detained "for reasons related to breaking Syrian law". Lamoureux thanked Ibrahim but said she could not give any details about the case.

"I thought I would be there forever," Baxter said, thanking the Canadian Embassy and Lebanese authorities for helping him get out of Syria. "I didn't know if anyone knew if I was alive," he added, and then began to sob, cutting short his comments.

It was unclear what Baxter was doing in Syria at the time of his detention.

Several Western citizens have been held in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, including some by jihadist groups such as Islamic State.

The United States has said it believes U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who has been held in Syria since 2012, is alive and Washington has sought the help of the Syrian government's ally Russia to free him.

Last year the family of another American, Majd Kamalmaz, told the New York Times that he had disappeared at a government checkpoint in Damascus in 2017.

(Reporting by Tom Perry Writing by Angus McDowall Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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