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.
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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.
Canadian citizen, Kristian Lee Baxter, who was being held in Syria reacts as he walks next to Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux and Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon’s internal security chief, after being released, in Beirut, Lebanon August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Canadian citizen, Kristian Lee Baxter, who was being held in Syria, shakes hands with Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon’s internal security chief, next to Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, after being released, at a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon August 9, 2019.
REUTERS/ Mohamed Azakir
Global News confirmed with Global Affairs that the government of Lebanon assisted with securing Baxter’s release, and that consular services will continue to be provided to Baxter and his family.
“We are very relieved that Mr. Kristian Baxter has been released from Syria. Canadian consular officials have been actively engaged throughout this case and continue to provide consular services to Mr. Baxter and his family,” the statement read.
“We would also like to express out appreciation to the Government of Lebanon for its assistance.”
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.
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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.
— With a file from Global News.
© 2019 Reuters