Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Canada to repatriate British-born 'Jihadi Jack' from Islamic State prison camp

Sunday 22/January/2023 - 05:12 PM
The Reference

Canada will repatriate the British-born Isil member known as "Jihadi Jack" along with 22 other citizens held in Islamic State prison camps in north-east Syria.

Muslim convert Jack Letts, 28, who had held dual British and Canadian citizenship, declared he was an "enemy of Britain" after travelling from Oxfordshire to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) terror group as a teenager.

He begged to be allowed to return to the UK, insisting he had "no intention" of killing Britons, after he was captured by Kurdish forces in 2017.

The Home Office stripped Letts of British citizenship in 2019, making him the responsibility of the Canadian government.

The move prompted diplomatic tensions, with Canada accusing its close ally of taking "unilateral action to offload their responsibilities".

Thousands of foreign nationals remain in Syrian prisons for suspected Isil members that are run by the Kurdish forces that reclaimed the war-torn region from the extremist group.

Canada said it would take back 23 of its citizens - six women, 13 infants, and four men - following a court case brought against the government by the detainees' relatives.

They argued that preventing them from entering Canada would violate their constitutional rights.

In its ruling, the Canadian federal court cited the conditions of the prison and the fact that the men have not been charged and brought to trial.

"The conditions of the... men are even more dire than those of the women and children who Canada has just agreed to repatriate," the decision reads.

"There is no evidence any of them have been tried or convicted, let alone tried in a manner recognized or sanctioned by international law."

Britain 'the most authoritarian government over this issue'

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer for most of the individuals, said if there is any evidence the Canadians took part in terrorist activities they should face trial there.

"These are Canadian citizens, they are being unlawfully, arbitrarily detained in either detention camps or in prisons, they haven't been charged with anything," Mr Greenspon told Canadian broadcaster CBC.

Jack Letts's parents, Sally Lane and John Letts, said they were "overjoyed" at the news. They have previously stated that there is no evidence their son was an Isil fighter.

"The federal government has been ordered to go to the region to bring back the men, and the judge has said this has to happen 'as soon as possible'," Ms Lane told the Middle East Eye.

She added: "He [Judge Henry Brown] referred to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, international humanitarian law, and the Magna Carta in his judgement, so this case will have global implications for the cases of all the other detainees, particularly the men.

"Britain, in particular, which has been the most recalcitrant and authoritarian government over this issue, should take note of this judgement and bring all its people home," Ms Lane said.

Canada: Safety of our people is top priority

The repatriation will be the largest for Canada since the so-called Islamic State caliphate was destroyed in 2019.

Up until now, Canada's government has assessed detained Isil suspects on a case-by-case basis. Only a handful of women and children have been repatriated so far.

Canada's foreign ministry said "the safety and security of Canadians is our government's top priority".

Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands have also repatriated its citizens from Syria.

Last year, the UK took back two British nationals from the camp after they were reportedly identified as human trafficking victims.

Shamima Begum, who left Britain to join Isil as a school girl in 2015 and has since begged to return home, was stripped of British citizenship and banned from entering the UK.