A Nanaimo man who went to Syria late last year to seek adventure and was then detained is now free.
Kristian Lee Baxter had been held for “reasons related to breaking Syrian law,” Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim said Friday at a news conference in Beirut.
“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.
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.
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.
Leclair told The Canadian Press her son is a world traveller and “adventurer” who has been “all over the place.”
On Thursday, Leclair’s birthday, she wrote on Facebook “Thank you to all my family and friends for the lovely Birthday wishes. I didn’t feel much like celebrating without my son Kristian. Once he is released and safely home I will celebrate his return and I can’t wait for that day to happen.”
In Nanaimo, he had volunteered at the Vancouver Island Military Museum, and one friend who worked with Baxter described him as a nice and funny guy.
with files from CBC and Canadian Press.