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The father of alleged ISIL member Jack Letts has challenged Andrew Scheer to a debate over his son’s fate.
John Letts complained in a statement he released Thursday that Scheer has refused to meet with him, and instead is poisoning Canadians’ minds against the 24-year-old Muslim convert with false information.
The case vaulted back to the fore this week after the U.K. stripped Letts – being held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria – of his British citizenship. Though Letts grew up in England, he was a joint U.K.-Canadian citizen, meaning now he holds only Canadian nationality.
After news of the British decision broke, Scheer said any government he led would not “lift a finger” to bring the man British media nicknamed “Jihadi Jack” to Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not stated directly whether his government would ever repatriate Letts.
“Mr. Scheer and his colleagues have continued to spread lies about our son in order to appear to be ‘tough on terrorism’,” said John Letts in a statement signed by him and wife Sally Lane. “Mr. Scheer knows that every time he calls our son ‘Jihadi’ Jack … he condemns him in the mind of those who are unable to distinguish between ‘fake news’ and the truth, and drives another nail into our son’s coffin.”
He challenged Scheer or his colleagues to a debate “in public, in French or in English, at any time.”
“Mr. Scheer knows that every time he calls our son ‘Jihadi’ Jack … he condemns him in the mind of those who are unable to distinguish between ‘fake news’ and the truth, and drives another nail into our son’s coffin.”
Daniel Schow, Scheer’s press secretary, said in a statement, “Mr. Scheer has made his position on Jihadi Jack crystal clear. He would not lift one finger to bring this self-described terrorist to Canada.”
Letts said in an earlier interview he believes Conservative critics are willfully confusing his son with “Jihadi John,” the U.K.-media nickname for Mohammed Emwazi, an Arab-British ISIL member videotaped taking part in public beheadings.
Jack Letts travelled to the Middle East in 2014 after converting to Islam, ending up in Raqqa, Syria, the de-facto capital of the short-lived ISIL caliphate.
His parents say he grew to vehemently oppose the Islamic State and eventually escaped Raqqa, only to be captured by the Kurdish forces.
He came to the British authorities’ attention after a post on Facebook saying he’d like to conduct a “martyrdom operation” against a school friend’s army unit. His parents contend his account was hacked.
In a BBC-TV interview earlier this year, Letts said he was at one time “an enemy of Britain” and would have taken part in a suicide car bombing, but now believes such behaviour is forbidden by Islam. He said in another interview he deeply regrets traveling to ISIL territory.
Thursday’s statement says that he has been kept in prison for over two years without charge and with no evidence he participated in violence.
“He was never a fighter and did not go to Syria to fight for ISIS. Just because the tabloid media have made this claim for five years does not make it true.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019