Suspected jihadist stuck in Syria | Mother goes on hunger strike

(Ottawa) The mother of Jack Letts, also known as “Jihadi Jack,” began a hunger strike on Tuesday. Sally Lane has set up in front of the building which houses the House of Commons, and she is demanding a meeting with Minister Mélanie Joly, in order to plead in favor of the repatriation of her son stuck in north-east Syria.


Posted at 5:44 p.m.

At the end of her patience, and after having possibly exhausted her legal appeals – the Supreme Court refused last November to hear the case of her son and three other men who are languishing in a detention center in northeastern Syria – the mother decided to take extreme measures to make herself heard.

The publication of an Amnesty International report was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she explains in an interview.

According to this document published in April, the region’s autonomous authorities are responsible for widespread violations of the rights of more than 56,000 people in their custody – approximately 11,500 men, 14,500 women and 30,000 children locked in at least 27 centers and two detention camps, Al Hol and Roj.

We also learn that, according to representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), one or two men and boys died every week from tuberculosis. The Red Cross has not been allowed to visit these prisons for more than two years, worries Sally Lane.

“When I learned about this, I told myself that I had tried everything, that nothing worked, and that I had to do something drastic,” says the woman who does not believe that her son was an ISIS fighter (the Islamic State armed group).

The suspicions weighing on him come largely from an article published in a British newspaper, the author of which renamed Jack Letts “Jihadi Jack,” she explains.

It says that Jack called me to tell me that he had joined ISIS. This is completely false.

Sally Lane

She believes that her son has the right to be tried in court. “That’s why he needs to be repatriated,” she said.

A meeting to end the strike

“I will end my hunger strike if [la ministre des Affaires étrangères] Mélanie Joly agrees to meet with me to discuss the issue of repatriation. I have been in Ottawa for four years, and no one in the government has met me,” she explains.

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PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly

“Global Affairs Canada continues to evaluate the granting of extraordinary assistance, including repatriation to Canada, on a case-by-case basis,” it said in an email Thursday, without directly addressing the case of Jack Letts or Sally Lane’s request.

“Canadian consular officers remain actively engaged with Syrian Kurdish authorities and international organizations operating in the region, as well as civil society groups to obtain information on Canadian citizens in detention,” it was added.

Sally Lane nevertheless said she had heard of the possibility of a meeting with the minister’s parliamentary secretary, Rob Oliphant.

This would satisfy her, and she would start eating again, she means.

Legal proceedings

The government challenged in court the order to repatriate Jack Letts as well as three other Canadian citizens detained in the autonomous region controlled by Kurdish forces.

A first instance judgment ruled against the government. Federal Court Judge Henry Brown ordered Ottawa to repatriate Canadians suspected of being former fighters of the Islamic State group.

The Federal Court of Appeal, however, overturned the judgment, with Justice David Stratas determining that Canada was “not responsible for the presence of the respondents in northeastern Syria, did not prevent them from entering Canada and did not cause or prolong the unfortunate situation in which they find themselves.”

The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, without explaining the reasons for this refusal, as usual.

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