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Canadian ex-hostage make video court appearance on sex assault charges

© AFP / by Marc BRAIBANT | A newspaper box shows former Taliban hostage Joshua Boyle on the front page of a local paper in Ottawa, Canada, January 3, 2018

OTTAWA (AFP) - 

A Canadian man who was held captive by a faction of the Afghan Taliban for five years appeared briefly in an Ottawa court via videolink on Wednesday to face a slew of charges that include sexual assault, illegal confinement and issuing death threats.

Joshua Boyle, 34, appeared for less than five minutes at the hearing from an Ottawa detention center, wearing an orange jumpsuit and sporting a wispy beard.

His lawyer, Eric Granger, described the hearing as a "purely administrative" procedure. The next hearing was set for January 8.

Boyle, who was rescued by the Pakistani military with his American wife Caitlin Coleman and their three children last October, faces charges on 15 counts, including eight of assault, two of sexual assault and two of illegal confinement.

The other charges include issuing death threats, causing a person to consume a "noxious" substance thought to be an anti-depressant, and of misleading the police.

All were said to have taken place since he returned to Canada.

A court order prevented publication of the identities of his alleged victims.

His wife, who gave birth to all three of their children in captivity, told The Toronto Star she blamed "the strain and trauma he was forced to endure for so many years and the effects that that had on his mental state" for her husband's alleged actions.

She said it was "with compassion and forgiveness that I... hope help and healing can be found for him."

- Trudeau meeting -

Boyle and Coleman, who have been married since 2011, were kidnapped by the Taliban during what they described as a backpacking trip through war-torn Afghanistan in 2012, and were later transferred to the custody of the Haqqani faction, known for its alleged ties to the Pakistani military.

They were freed on October 12, but refused to board a US military plane.

Boyle, a Muslim convert and long-time advocate of freed Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr -- whose sister he was once married to -- cited fears because of his background.

Upon his arrival in Toronto two days later, Boyle accused his captors of raping his wife and killing his baby daughter, a fourth child -- allegations swiftly refuted by the Taliban's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Mujahid admitted a baby had died but said it was a result of a natural miscarriage.

A month later, Coleman also spoke of a sexual "assault" by two of her captors in an interview with ABC News.

While advocating for Khadr, a Canadian captured at the age of 15 in 2002 in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay before being transferred to Canada and later released, Boyle met his sister in 2008 while she was carrying out a hunger strike.

He married her in 2009 but they divorced a year later.

Boyle, the son of an Ottawa tax court judge, then traveled around Latin America with Coleman, who was raised a Catholic in Pennsylvania and whom he had befriended years earlier in an online game forum. She now wears a hijab.

Boyle and his family met last month with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after which the ex-hostage said they had discussed the Haqqani network. He also posted a picture on Twitter of the premier holding one of their young children.

Pakistan's military says the family was freed in a daring rescue operation.

But some US and Canadian officials have questioned that account, suggesting to news outlets it may have involved a "negotiated handover" with the Haqqani network, which Islamabad is said to covertly back.

by Marc BRAIBANT

© 2018 AFP