British-born aid worker’s wife demands Syria extremists release him
The wife of a self-described aid worker stripped of his British nationality has called for his release after he was detained by an Islamist extremist group in northwestern Syria.
Tauqir Sharif, 33, was detained on June 22 by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a dominant group in Syria's northwestern region of Idlib, the last area of Syria held by anti-Assad rebels, his supporters say.
"We haven't been given anything from HTS to even say what the allegations are" against him, his wife Racquell Hayden Best told AFP in the border town of Atme, adding that she had been scrambling for information on his detention.
"We have heard ourselves that he is innocent. If he is an innocent man, why are you holding him in prison?" she asked.
Sharif, whose father is originally from Pakistan, hails from Chingford on the eastern outskirts of London and first arrived in Syria in 2012, according to the Live Updates From Syria organisation he founded with his wife.
Britain stripped him of his British nationality in 2017, accusing him of links to an Al-Qaeda-aligned group it did not specify, the British press has said, but Sharif has denied the allegation, saying that he was motivated by horrific media images of the suffering of civilians in Syria to carry out aid work there.
HTS has not commented on Sharif's detention, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between the group and other extremist fighters in the Idlib region.
A fragile ceasefire, which is frequently violated by the regime and Russia, has since March, stalled Russia-backed regime offensive against Idlib.
The region is home to some three million people, a large proportion of whom have been displaced from their homes by Syria's nine-year-old conflict and are dependent on humanitarian aid.