THE parents of a 21-year-old British man who has spent months in a Kurdish prison after he was captured trying to flee Islamic State (IS) territory in Syria launched a hunger strike on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral last week to highlight his plight.
John Letts and Sally Lane, from Oxford, spent six days in total not eating anything, as part of their campaign to put pressure on the Government to help their son, Jack, get back to Britain.
Jack Letts, who converted to Islam during his teens, travelled to IS-held territory in 2014, aged 18.
Some reports said that he was a supporter of the extremists who had just established their so-called caliphate — dubbing him “Jihadi Jack” — but his parents have always denied he had joined the terrorist group. He told reporters last year that he no longer agreed with IS, and had even been imprisoned by them.
In June this year, he was detained by Kurdish forces, reportedly while trying to smuggle himself out of IS-controlled territory, and has been out of contact ever since.
Mr Letts and Ms Lane have asked the Foreign Office to assist them in bringing their son home, but have been told that there is no consular service available in Syria, and that all travel to the region by British citizens was contrary to advice.
After starting their hunger strike outside St Paul’s, Ms Lane said that the pair had visited other prominent sites in London before having to curtail the protest just short of a week. “We had to break our fast on day six, rather than day seven, as both of us were very unwell, but we still feel it was a worthwhile protest, and has had the effect of highlighting Jack’s plight.”
Ms Lane and Mr Letts are awaiting trial on charges of funding terrorism because they sent money to their son in 2015 and 2016, although they insist that there is no evidence that he was ever involved in violence.
The protest was “even more pertinent” after “outrageous” comments from a junior Foreign Office minister, Rory Stewart, Ms Lane said. On Sunday, Mr Stewart said that the only way of dealing with British citizens who had joined IS “will be, in almost every case, to kill them”.
“What is even more shocking is that a Government minister can say such a thing, with Downing Street backing him up and the public not batting an eye. I fear for this country,” Ms Lane said.
“It certainly explains why we are having no joy from the Foreign Office in our efforts to get consular access, or have Jack returned,” she later told The Times.
A petition set up online calling on the Government to intervene on behalf of Jack Letts had secured about 1700 signatures at the time of going to press.