Nanaimo man detained in Syria last year freed after Lebanese mediation

Kristian Lee Baxter thanked the Lebanese government in a televised news conference in Beirut

A B.C. man detained in Syria since late last year has been released, Lebanese authorities said Friday.

Kristian Lee Baxter, who has been described by his family as a “world traveller,” thanked the Lebanese government for securing his release in a televised news conference in Beirut.

Local media reported Baxter broke down in tears as he described his eight-month ordeal.

“I thought I would be there forever,” Baxter told reporters. “I would like to thank the Lebanese for helping me get free.”

Lebanon’s general security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, said Lebanese mediation helped secure the Canadian’s freedom.

Baxter, who is from Nanaimo, B.C., was detained in Syria in December after seeking adventure in the war-ravaged country.

Ibrahim said Baxter had been held since last year for “violating Syrian laws” but he didn’t elaborate.

READ MORE: Nanaimo ‘adventure’ traveller detained in Syria, missing for more than one month

Canada’s ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, said she was “delighted with today’s outcome,” adding that “we have our Lebanese friends to thank for it,” according to a report from The Daily Star newspaper.

A statement from Global Affairs Canada said the government is “relieved” at Baxter’s release.

“We would also like to express out appreciation to the government of Lebanon for its assistance,” said the statement.

Global Affairs also said consular services will continue to be provided to Baxter and his family.

Baxter’s mother, Andrea Leclair told The Canadian Press last January, that her son messaged her daily because she was worried after he arrived in Syria on Nov. 26, but he went silent after his last message on Dec. 1.

Leclair described her son as “a world traveller and adventurer” and said he visited a village near the border of Lebanon at the invitation of his girlfriend’s brother-in-law.

She said Baxter was supposed to be home Dec. 13 and his travel visa to Syria expired on Dec. 12 or 13.

Bruce Tober, a former co-worker of Baxter’s in Nanaimo, said he watched an interview with Baxter in Lebanon Friday morning and felt shock and disbelief at the news of his friend’s release.

“I watched the interview and he looks shockingly well,” Tober said. “You just don’t know what to expect. You always think the worst, but he looked terrific in the interview and I’m just walking on Cloud 9 right now.”

The two men worked together at a home appliance retailer. Tober described Baxter as “just a really decent human being.”

“With all the bad things happening in the world these days it’s nice to chalk one up in the win column for a change,” he said.

Baxter’s mother made a statement about her son’s release in a letter issued via the family’s legal counsel Friday afternoon.

“I’m ecstatic that Kristian is on his way home,” said Andrea Leclair, from the family’s residence in Nanaimo. “Our family is grateful for the efforts of Global Affairs Canada, which worked consistently, relentlessly, and professionally for Kristian’s release and collaborated with our professional consultants, Calvin Chrustie and Timo der Weduwen, of InterVentis Global, and John Weston, of Pan Pacific Law Corporation. We also thank the Lebanese government for its key role in the release.”

The letter also said Baxter’s mother and his stepfather, Jean-Guy Leclair, had not heard from Baxter since days after his arrival in Syria. Baxter had visited the Middle East, including Syria, intending to visit historical and cultural sites. The family is not aware of any charges brought against him, however, believe he may have broken regulations relating to travel requirements in Syria.

In the letter the family also expressed their thanks to others “involved in supporting them, locally, nationally and internationally and also requested privacy in anticipation of Kristian’s arrival in Canada.

The government has been warning Canadians to avoid travelling to Syria since 2011 after the outbreak of a civil war that has attracted foreign powers and spawned a multitude of militias, including a new Islamist terror group, while leaving an estimated 500,000 people dead.

Canada severed diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012, expelling its diplomats and shuttering its embassy.

— With files from The Associated Press, local media, Chris Bush/Nanaimo News Bulletin

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Lebanon’s General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, left, speaks with Kristian Lee Baxter, centre, of Nanaimo, B.C., during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug 9, 2019. Baxter was recently released from a Syrian prison to Lebanon after being held since last year. The Lebanese general who mediated his release said Baxter was heading home. It was not clear when Baxter was released from Syria. (The Lebanese General Security Directorate photo)

Just Posted

City of Nanaimo helps residents stave off boredom with ‘wellness bingo’

Recreation coordinators promote social well-being and physical activity through online platforms

Ferry breaks down at Departure Bay, several sailings cancelled

B.C. Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay held in dock in Nanaimo due to main engine issue

Thieves break through wall to steal tools from home under construction

Drywalling tools taken from house on Bonnie Drive in Nanaimo last week

Donald Trump says Canadians on two stranded cruise ships will be heading home

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that there are 97 Canadian passengers on the Zaandam

Nanaimo air compressor business helps manufacture parts for COVID-19 fight

VMAC has crafted parts now being tested in prototype ventilator created at University of Minnesota

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

North Cowichan to police popular trails to ensure physical distancing

“You can expect delays accessing Mount Tzouhalem, or even to be turned away.”

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

Most Read