Tauqir Sharif: British-born aid worker faces trial by Syria jihadists

Tauqir Sharif, has been working as an aid worker in Syria since 2012. Image copyright Tauqir Sharif
Image caption Tauqir Sharif founded an organisation to support people displaced by Syria’s civil war

The jihadist alliance that dominates opposition-held north-western Syria has said it will put a British-born man who runs an aid organisation on trial.

Tauqir Sharif, from east London, was detained last month by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and charged with funding “projects that incite division”.

On Tuesday, it announced that he had been released on bail.

Britain stripped Mr Sharif of his citizenship in 2017, accusing him of links to a group aligned with al-Qaeda.

Mr Sharif, who is entitled to Pakistani nationality through his father, denied the allegation. But he admitted he had fought in Syria and carried an AK47 rifle.

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Media caption2019: Tauqir Sharif tells the BBC’s Lucy Manning it is unfair to have his citizenship taken away

Mr Sharif, who is also known as Tox, is the founder of Live Updates From Syria, an organisation that says it provides humanitarian aid to people displaced by the country’s civil war.

According to its Facebook page, Mr Sharif was detained by armed members of HTS in Idlib province on 22 June without any explanation and held incommunicado for several days.

His family, colleagues and supporters launched a social media campaign calling for his release, and circulated videos of demonstrations in the town of Atmeh.

HTS later said Mr Sharif was accused of organising “the transfer of funds to support some projects that incite division” in opposition-held territories.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that he was held over his alleged ties with rival jihadists.

On Tuesday, HTS’s “office of media affairs” issued a statement announcing that Mr Sharif had been released on bail following a request from his family.

“The court informed him that the date of his hearing with the judiciary was after 15 days… and that during his release he could prepare his defence,” it said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tauqir Sharif’s family and colleagues launched a campaign calling for his release

On Wednesday, Live Updates From Syria posted a video on Facebook that it said showed Mr Sharif being welcomed home.

“We pray Allah keeps him and his family safe and that he is cleared of all charges,” it added.

Mr Sharif’s detention came amid a crackdown by HTS on dissidents and defectors in areas of north-western Syria that are under its control.

HTS is an alliance led by al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria. Formerly known as al-Nusra Front, it is designated as a terrorist organisation by the UN, US and others.