A British Columbia man who went to Syria late last year to seek adventure and was then detained has been released, Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim said Friday.
Kristian Lee Baxter of Nanaimo was detained for “reasons related to breaking Syrian law,” Ibrahim said at a news conference in Beirut.
Baxter appeared alongside Ibrahim, who last month mediated the release of U.S. citizen Sam Goodwin from Syria, as well as Canadian Ambassador Emmanuelle Lamoureux.
“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.
Lamoureux thanked Ibrahim, but said she could not give any details about the case.
“We are very relieved that Mr. Kristian Baxter has been released from Syria,” Guillaume Bérubé, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said in an emailed statement.
Canadian consular officials have been “actively engaged” throughout the case and continue to provide services to Baxter and his family, the statement said.
Bérubé said Global Affairs would not be releasing further information due to Canada’s Privacy Act, but he expressed “appreciation to the government of Lebanon for its assistance.”
Baxter’s mother, Andrea Leclair, said in an interview last January that her son, who was 44 at the time, arrived in Syria on Nov. 26, 2018, but then went silent after his last message on Dec. 1.
Described as ‘adventurer’
Leclair told The Canadian Press her son is a world traveller and “adventurer” who has been “all over the place.”
Baxter was supposed to be home Dec. 13 and his travel visa to Syria expired on Dec. 12 or 13, she said.
Several Western citizens have been held in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, including some by jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
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.