Canadian man freed from detention by Syria authorities

A Canadian man has been freed after being
held for eight months by the Damascus authorities in war-torn Syria, the
former detainee and Lebanon’s security chief said Friday.

British Columbia native Kristian Lee Baxter on Friday appeared at a
televised press conference in Lebanon’s capital Beirut after his release
mediated by the Lebanese authorities.

“I thought I would be there forever,” he said, after breaking down in
tears.

“Honestly, I didn’t know if anyone would know I was alive,” he said, his
grey hair trimmed short and wearing a grey t-shirt.

Canadian media reported in early January that there had been no signs of
Baxter, then 44, since December 1, 2018.

Baxter thanked his embassy in Beirut and Lebanese authorities for helping
secure his release.

Lebanese security chief Abbas Ibrahim said Baxter had been detained since
last year “for reasons linked to breaking Syrian laws”, without elaborating.

“He is on his way back to Canada,” he said, thanking the Syrian authorities
for what he described as their swift response on the issue.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told journalists in Calgary
that she could not comment on what Ottawa did to help free Baxter as she
thanked the Lebanese government.

“This is a good outcome, and I’m really relieved. As for the details, this
is a private matter, and I cannot comment on that,” she said.

“I think this is also a case that should remind us all to exercise a high
degree of caution when travelling to dangerous parts of the world.”

Described as an adventure traveller by his loved ones, Baxter had made no
contact since arriving at a Syrian village where his brother-in-law was born.

He had travelled there despite the brutal war raging in Syria since 2011.

– Missing American –

A Canadian official told AFP earlier this year that “a Canadian citizen has
been detained in Syria”, without providing any further details, due to
reasons of confidentiality.

He said “the security situation across Syria significantly restrains the
Canadian government’s ability to provide consular assistance”.

The Syrian conflict has killed over 370,000 people and displaced millions
more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government
protests.

Canada cut diplomatic ties with Damascus after the conflict began.

Last month, Lebanon said it had facilitated the release of a 30-year-old
American after two months of detention.

Sam Goodwin had last been seen on May 25 in the city of Qamishli in
northeast Syria after crossing from Turkey as part of his bid to visit every
country in the world, The Washington Post reported.

A number of foreigners remain missing in Syria.

One of those missing is American journalist Austin Tice, who was kidnapped
in Syria seven years ago this month by unidentified armed men after he had
been reporting south of Damascus.

His kidnapping was never claimed by any organisation.

In December, Tice’s father said he believed the Syrian government was best
placed to help bring the journalist home.