Lebanon Mediates Release of Canadian Captured in Syria
General Security chief Maj. Gan. Abbas Ibrahim announced in a press conference on Friday that Lebanon has mediated the release of a Canadian citizen captured in Syrian last year.
“I thank the Syrian state for answering our calls that led to the release of an American hostage before and a Canadian hostage today. The issue falls in Lebanon’s interest because it brings us back to the world map at the civilized and humanitarian levels,” said Ibrahim in remarks to reporters.
The Canadian citizen “Christian Lee Baxter has been in detention in Syria since last year for reasons related to violating the Syrian laws,” added Ibrahim.
For her part, the Canadian ambassador said: “We extend our gratitude to Maj. Gen. Ibrahim and for the role he played to bring a Canadian citizen back to his family. Today is a glorious day for Canadians.”
“Due to privacy laws in Canada I will not comment on the specifics of the case,” she added.
Baxter himself appeared at the televised press conference in Beirut after his release.
"I thought I would be there forever," he said, breaking down in tears.
"Honestly, I didn't know if anyone would know I was alive," he said, wearing a gray t-shirt.
Canadian media reported in early January that there had been no signs of Baxter, then 44, since December 1, 2018 after he arrived in Syria.
Baxter thanked his embassy in Beirut and Lebanese authorities for helping secure his release.
Described as an adventure traveler by his loved ones, Baxter had made no contact since arriving at a Syrian village where his brother-in-law was born.
He had traveled there despite the brutal war raging in Syria since 2011.
A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, which manages the country's diplomatic relations, told AFP earlier this year that "a Canadian citizen has been detained in Syria," without providing any further details, due to reasons of confidentiality.
He said "the security situation across Syria significantly restrains the Canadian government's ability to provide consular assistance."
Since the Syrian war broke out, Ottawa has urged Canadians to avoid traveling to the country.
The conflict has killed over 370,000 people and displaced millions more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Canada cut diplomatic ties with Damascus after the conflict began.