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British aid worker Tauqir Sharif 'released on bail' by HTS in Idlib

Sharif, who has been in Syria since 2013, is set to stand trial after arrest by militant group last month
A photo of Tauqir Sharif posted by his aid organisation, Live Updates from Syria, on Wednesday (Facebook)

A British aid worker arrested last month by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province has been released on bail, his family confirmed on Wednesday.

Tauqir Sharif, who is originally from London, was detained by HTS security forces on 22 June near Atmeh, the camp for displaced Syrians on the Turkish border where he has been based since 2013.

His release comes after his family in the UK on Sunday appealed for him to be freed and called on HTS, the militant group which controls most of Idlib, to clarify the judicial process under which he was being held and investigated.

In a statement seen by Middle East Eye, HTS said Sharif had appeared before the "public prosecution in the military court" and had been released on bail pending trial in 15 days.

An image of a document posted on Twitter by the Idlib-based On the Ground News network showed the guarantors of Sharif's bail conditions included two other British aid workers in Idlib; Shajul Islam, a hospital doctor, and Mohammed Shakiel, who is originally from Birmingham.

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"Acknowledging the amount of work our brother Tauqir Sharif has contributed to the Syrian people and knowing that our brother would do the same if any of us were in the same situation, we the guarantors wish to stand in solidarity and support our brother to secure his bail according to the conditions set by the court," the document said.

It remains unclear what charges Sharif faces. In a media statement after his arrest, HTS said he was being investigated over alleged "mismanagement of humanitarian funds and its use towards projects that sow sedition and division". His family have disputed those allegations.

A video posted on social media by Sharif's aid organisation, Live Updates from Syria, showed him being greeted by his children and others supported by the organisation's projects.

Addressing the crowd, Sharif said: "Even in prison I heard that the women made so much noise for me."

His arrest prompted protests by children and women supported by Live Updates from Syria's projects in Atmeh camp as well as a #FreeTox social media campaign, referring to Sharif by the nickname by which he is widely known.

Over the course of Syria’s war, Sharif has become one of the most high-profile foreign nationals living in Idlib, via broadcasts on his own social media channels and through coverage of his work by media outlets, including the BBC; Channel 4; ITV; CNN; and MEE.

He says Live Updates from Syria employs around 200 people and runs 41 aid projects in Idlib, the last area of Syria still under the control of Syrian opposition forces.

Last year Sharif revealed that he was among a number of UK nationals in Syria to have been stripped of their citizenship by the British government.

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