BEIRUT

Middle East

British doctor in court over abduction of two Western journalists

A Syrian rebel holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher near a post in the Syrian northern city of Aleppo on October 13, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/TAUSEEF MUSTAFA)

LONDON: A British trainee doctor appeared in a London court Wednesday charged with kidnapping two Western journalists in Syria.

Shajul Islam, 26, is accused of being part of a jihadist group that held photographers John Cantlie from Britain and Jeroen Oerlemans of the Netherlands at a Syrian camp between July 17 and 26.

Islam was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on Oct. 9 after arriving on a flight from Egypt with his 26-year-old wife and 1-year-old daughter, the court heard.

His wife was also arrested but was released without charge Tuesday.

Islam, from east London, appeared at the short hearing wearing a black jacket with a gray shirt and tie. He spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

The court heard he had studied medicine at two London hospitals and had left Britain in June.

Islam was remanded in custody and is next due to appear at London’s Old Bailey court on Nov. 2.

Cantlie, who was abducted with Oerlemans while covering the fighting between President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebel fighters, had said his captors included a man who said he was a doctor with Britain’s National Health Service.

Writing in the Sunday Times daily in August, Cantlie said he and Oerlemans had been held by some 30 Islamist militants from countries including Britain, Pakistan and Chechnya.

Both photographers suffered gunshot wounds when the Free Syrian Army freed them from their captors.

“I ended up running for my life, barefoot and handcuffed, while British jihadists – young men with south London accents – shot to kill,” he wrote.

“Not a Syrian in sight. This wasn’t what I had expected.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 33,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt against Assad began in March last year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 18, 2012, on page 8.

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