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Jihadi Jack’s parents say he’s no terrorist

John Letts and Sally Lane -- Jihadi Jack's parents -- are pictured in London, England, on Sept. 10, 2018.

The family of a man currently held in a Kurdish prison in northern Syria is disputing the description of him as a terrorist.

A spokesperson for John and Sally Letts took issue with the term terrorist being applied to Jack Letts, aka Jihadi Jack.

Nikita Bernardi, a public relations consultant helping the family seek political support for Jack’s release, emailed her displeasure at the recent story in the Toronto Sun.

“There are inaccuracies which I would kindly ask you to correct, including your use of the word ‘terrorist’ to describe Jack who has never been charged with anything and no evidence has ever been presented to suggest that Jack has ever taken part in any illegal activity,” Bernardi wrote.

Letts has, however, described himself as a traitor to Britain, an enemy of the country where he was raised, and described how he wanted to be a suicide bomber for ISIS.

(Undated Facebook image of Jihadi Jack)
(Undated Facebook image of Jihadi Jack)

“I used to want to at one point, believe it or not,” Letts told BBC in a 2019 interview. “Not a vest. I wanted to do it in a car. I said if there’s a chance, I will do it.”

Since his capture in 2017, Letts has been held by Kurdish forces, his family says, without charges or a trial. They are seeking political help in Canada to free him, citing his Canadian citizenship.

While Letts has never lived in Canada, his father John is Canadian and passed on citizenship to his son. In 2019, citing his activities in Syria, the British government stripped Jack of his citizenship.

Next week, John Letts will arrive in Ottawa seeking meetings with people he hopes will speak up for his son.

Bernardi said in an email that it is a busy schedule in Ottawa, but it remains to be seen if he will get a warm reception. The Conservatives have denounced the idea of Letts coming to Canada in the past and the Liberals have been non-committal.

Despite saying in 2015 that, “A Canadian, is a Canadian, is a Canadian,” when promising to reinstate citizenship that had been stripped from convicted terrorists in this country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not spoken up in favour of Letts.

“It is a crime to travel internationally with a goal of supporting terrorism or engaging in terrorism. And that is a crime that we will continue to make all attempts to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Trudeau said when asked about the case in 2019.

Bernardi said that the Canadian government needs to fulfil its obligations to Letts, which could include prosecuting him in this country.

“Jack’s parents are not naive, and they strongly believe that if Jack has taken part in anything illegal, then he should be tried and prosecuted in accordance with the crime committed; Canada has all the infrastructure and capability to do this,” Bernardi said.

What the family doesn’t want is for Jack Letts to continue in what they call arbitrary detention.