HTS releases British-born aid worker captured in Syria's Idlib

HTS releases British-born aid worker captured in Syria's Idlib
Idlib's ruling faction Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has released aid worker Tauqir Sharif after he was captured and imprisoned in June, local media has reported.
2 min read
15 July, 2020
Tauqir Sharif (centre) on his release from prison in Idlib [Twitter]
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the jihadi group that dominates most of Syria's Idlib province, has released aid worker Tauqir Sharif - also known as Tox - after his arrest on 22 June, local media reported on Wednesday.

The Twitter page of Sharif's Live Updates From Syria (LUFS) organisation posted a photo of the smiling 33-year-old, saying he had been released on bail.

Sharif, from Chingford in east London, first arrived in Syria in 2012, according to the LUFS, which he founded with his wife.

The UK stripped him of his British nationality in 2017, accusing him of links to an Al-Qaeda-aligned group but did not specify which organisation he was allegedly aligned to.

Sharif has denied any links to armed groups, saying he came to Syria motivated by horrific media images of the suffering of civilians and sought to carry out aid work there.

He has described the government claims as "unfair" and "racist" but admitted to carrying an AK-47 for "protection", saying he was threatened by militias including the Islamic State group.

The revocation of Sharif's citizenship means that he and his family are stuck in Idlib province, with reports that his eldest daughter has also been denied British citizenship.

HTS has not commented on Sharif's detention or his release, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between the group and other extremist factions in the Idlib region.

A fragile ceasefire, which is frequently violated by the Syrian regime and Russia, has since March stalled a Moscow-backed offensive on Idlib.

The region is home to some 3 million people, a large proportion of whom have been displaced from their homes elsewhere in Syria and are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Sharif's wife Raquell Best said earlier this month that HTS had not informed the family on what the allegations against him were.

"We have heard ourselves that he is innocent. If he is an innocent man, why are you holding him in prison?" she asked.

Locals in the town of Atme, where Sharif was arrested, gathered to protest his detention on 7 July.

Sharif told Middle East Eye in 2019 that LUFS runs more than 40 projects in Idlib and employs around 170 people.

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