Canadian Kristian Lee Baxter released from Syria detention
A Canadian tourist held in Syrian detention since 2018 has been released.
Kristian Lee Baxter arrived in the country on 26 November and stopped contacting his family about a week later.
His mother, Andrea Leclair, previously described her son as a “world traveller” and “adventurer”.
“I thought I would be there forever,” Mr Baxter said during an emotional appearance at a news conference in Beirut on Friday.
“I didn’t know if anyone knew if I was alive,” he added.
Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who appeared alongside him, said the Canadian was detained for “reasons related to breaking Syrian law”.
Mr Ibrahim was also involved in securing the release of a US traveller, Sam Goodwin, from Syria last month.
Canada has advised citizens against travelling to Syria since civil war broke out in 2011.
“Syria is not safe for personal travel,” the advisory on their website says. “Attempting any form of travel in this very hazardous security environment would place you at grave risk.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Calgary on Friday that she is “personally relieved by this outcome and I’m sure Mr Baxter’s family and loved ones are as well”.
She added that despite the positive outcome in this case that it “should remind us all to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling to dangerous parts of the world”.
“I’m ecstatic that Kristian is on his way home,” said Ms Leclair in a statement, and thanked Canadian officials and the Lebanese government for their assistance in the case.
Mr Baxter, who was 44 when he went missing, was supposed to return home on 13 December.
Ms Leclair told CTV News in January that her son had been staying at a village near the Lebanese border after arriving there from Beirut. He reportedly disappeared while attempting to locate a driver who had gone back to Lebanon to retrieve his luggage, which arrived there by plane after him.
The driver was reportedly detained on the border when a metal detector was found in her son’s bag, Ms Leclair said.
The circumstances of Mr Baxter’s detention and release have not been revealed by officials.