November 16, 2018
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Ex-Taliban captive arrested, charged with sexual assault, death threats

Nathan Denette | AP
Nathan Denette | AP
Joshua Boyle speaks to the media after arriving at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Oct. 31, 2017.

Joshua Boyle, the Canadian man who was freed after five years in Taliban captivity in October, has been arrested and charged with 15 criminal offenses, including sexual assault, uttering death threats and misleading police — all of which allegedly occurred after he returned to Canada with his family.

According to multiple Canadian media outlets, the 34-year-old Boyle first appeared in court on New Year’s Day in Ottawa and will remain in custody at least until a hearing Wednesday. All of the offenses are alleged to have taken place in Ottawa between Oct. 14, shortly after the family’s arrival back in Canada, and Dec. 30. A court order prevents publication of any information that would identify any victims or witnesses. Among the charges is causing an unidentified person to ingest “a noxious thing, namely Trazodone,” an antidepressant drug.

[After 5 years in captivity, man says terrorists raped wife, killed child]

It’s the latest twist in the strange story of Boyle, the son of a Canadian tax-court judge, who was abducted by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network along with his pregnant American wife, Caitlan Coleman, while they were backpacking in the Afghan province of Wardak in 2012. The couple spent the next five years as hostages, during which Coleman gave birth to three children.

The Boyles were set free in Pakistan in October 2017 and flown back to Canada, but the family almost immediately showed signs of stress. A week after their arrival, Coleman was rushed to the hospital with an unspecified ailment. A statement issued at the time, purportedly by Boyle’s family, said the couple was “deeply traumatized and Josh is not of clear thought as he speaks at times.”

In a statement to the Toronto Star on Tuesday following Boyle’s arrest, Coleman declined to comment on the charges but said that “ultimately it is the strain and trauma he was forced to endure for so many years and the effects that had on his mental state that is most culpable for this.” Eric Granger, Boyle’s defense lawyer, told the Star that his client had never been in trouble with the law before, describing him as “a young man who we all know has been through a lot.”

Interviewed after the family’s liberation in October, Coleman’s father, Jim, expressed anger with his son-in-law. Jim Coleman, who lives in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, told ABC News that “taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable.” Coleman’s parents were reportedly in Ottawa with their daughter on Monday.

It has always been unclear what Boyle and his wife were doing in Afghanistan. In one interview, Boyle said that he and Coleman had decided to travel there “to fix things.”Although he once described himself to a friend as “a hippie, Mennonite love child,” Boyle had long been fascinated by radical Islam and was married for a time to Zaynab Khadr, an elder sister of Omar Khadr, the Pakistani-Canadian who as a 15-year-old was arrested and charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan.

Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to the killing but then recanted, claiming his confession had been coerced. He spent 10 years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay before being returned to Canada in 2012. Khadr sued the Canadian government for breaching his constitutional rights and was recently awarded a settlement of 10.5 million Canadian dollars ($8.4 million) and a government apology.

The Boyles were last in the news just before Christmas, when a photo appeared on Twitter of the family visiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his parliamentary office. There was no comment from Trudeau’s office following Boyle’s arrest.

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