Father of terror suspect says his son is innocent, deserves Canada’s protection
By The Canadian PressNews Industry News
OTTAWA — The father of a British-Canadian man imprisoned in Syria says his son is not a terrorist and deserves Canada's protection.
In a letter to Canadian MPs, John Letts says his son, Jack, is “just another naive young person who went to Syria hoping to help create a peaceful, utopian Muslim state” and who wound up trapped when Islamic terrorists took control over exit points.
“I’m writing to ask for your help to save my son’s life,” he writes.
Letts will be in Ottawa next week hoping to meet with any parliamentarians willing to listen.
Letts says his son — who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media — opposed the terrorists, was put under house arrest for publicly challenging their teachings and now wants to spend the rest of his life “bearing witness” against them. He says his son was never involved in the violence perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS or Daesh.
Jack Letts has been detained without charge in a Kurdish prison for 18 months.
Earlier this week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer blasted the Trudeau government over reports that consular officials initiated contact with Letts — whom Scheer described as a “known jihadi fighter” — about coming to Canada.
John Letts says Scheer’s assertion about his son’s involvement in terrorism is “a blatant lie that he knows is untrue.”
“If Mr. Scheer’s lies are not challenged, our son will die in prison and an innocent Canadian who opposed ISIS … will die soon because of ‘fake news’ and government inaction,” he writes in the letter.
Global News has reported that at least 13 Canadians — three alleged terrorists, their wives and children — are currently being detained in Syria.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale showed little sympathy earlier this week for such individuals who now want to return to Canada.
“They made this decision to leave this country and to go somewhere else to become associated with a vile and heinous and atrocious terrorist operation,” he said.
“There are consequences that flow from that.”
John Letts says he shares “the disgust of my fellow Canadians that someone could betray their homeland and commit atrocities. They should pay the price for their crimes.”
However, he suggests Canada would be no better than ISIL if it allows terror suspects to be “found guilty through social media” and abandons the rule of law.
“It is clear that everyone who went to Syria should be detained when they return to Canada — but all Canadians have a right to a fair trial and to be considered innocent until proven guilty,” he writes.
“I live with the hope that most parliamentarians believe that the Canadian government has a duty to protect its citizens not only from terrorism, but also from illegal detention and torture abroad.”
According to Letts, the Kurds have stated publicly that they’re willing to hand his son over to Canadian authorities. He also maintains Global Affairs Canada told the family for months that it was working to get their son released but that the department recently decided it’s too dangerous.
Jack Letts was not mentioned directly Thursday in the House of Commons, where Conservative MPs continued to hammer the government for allegedly working proactively to bring terror suspects home. Goodale denied that assertion and, in the process, contradicted John Letts.
“We have not offered to repatriate anyone and, in fact, there is no deal with the Kurd region (of Syria) at the present time and there has not been,” Goodale said.
He said Canadian security and intelligence forces are working in collaboration with their international counterparts to investigate all Canadians who travelled to Syria to join terrorists, “with the absolute determination to lay charges and to prosecute in every case.”
Under the Liberal government, Goodale said charges have been laid against four individuals thus far, two of whom have been convicted. By contrast, he said “not a single charge was laid” by the previous Conservative government.
John Letts and his wife, Sally Lane, were charged by British police in 2016 with funding terrorism after they tried to send their son money. In his letter, Letts says the money was to pay “people smugglers,” which was “the only way out” of Syria for his son.
— Joan Bryden
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2018
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