The family of British aid worker Tauqir Sharif and advocacy group CAGE are demanding his immediate release by the Syrian opposition group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) which detained him and searched and seized his property last night.
While the allegations against Sharif are still unclear, CAGE said it was deeply concerned about his right to a fair hearing and access to his family and support network in rebel-held Idlib Province in northern Syria.
CAGE called on HTS to confirm that Tauqir Sharif is being treated humanely and provided with all his rights and due process.
They are asking that HTS authorities release him immediately and that any charges against him are clearly presented to him and his family as part of a clear and transparent legal process.
Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for CAGE said: “I met Tox in Syria in 2012. He’d left behind his life in Britain to help the people in Syria and has never left. For eight years, Tox and his wife Racquelle Hayden Best have built and run schools, mosques, homes and camps for refugees in Northern Syria. Tox is deeply loved and respected in Syria and is a household name among British Muslims.
“Despite his immense sacrifices, Tox has endured assaults by the Assad regime, survived bombing attempts by ISIS and had his nationality revoked by the British government without any evidence presented against him.”
“Tox has been detained by HTS secret police. I hope they understand how much Tox has endured in his efforts to help the people of Syria and that they return him to his family at once.”
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Racqeulle Hayden Best, wife of Tauqir Sharif added: “A man [Tox] who has given up everything to come here and help those who are oppressed…he always tells me no matter what, the ummah [community] comes first before everything. even before myself….and right now he needs that ummah to stand behind him and fight for justice.”
Bilal Abdul Kareem, a journalist in Idlib who first reported the arrest, said that Sharif had been detained by HTS security personnel at a house near the Atmeh refugee camp between 8.30pm and 9.30pm local time on Monday.
Sharif’s detention was also confirmed by his aid organisation, Live Updates from Syria, on a post on its Instagram page, which said he had been taken to an unknown location.
Sharif has been based in Atmeh since 2013. Last year he revealed that he was among a number of UK nationals in Syria to have been stripped of their citizenship by the British government.
The government revoked his nationality on the grounds that he was assessed to be “aligned with an al-Qaeda-aligned group” and could “present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom.”
Sharif denies any links with armed groups or proscribed organisations.
HTS is the coalition of fighters, including some factions formerly aligned with al-Qaeda, that controls most of Idlib. According to media reports, the group is currently conducting a wave of arrests targeting prominent figures in the province.