OTTAWA — Joshua Boyle, a Canadian man who was freed in October after five years in Taliban captivity, has been arrested and charged with 15 criminal offenses, including sexual assault, uttering death threats and misleading police — all of which allegedly occurred after he returned to Canada with his family.
According to multiple Canadian media outlets, the 34-year-old made a brief appearance Wednesday in court via video link from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center and will remain in custody until a hearing Monday. Boyle has been jailed since an initial court appearance after his arrest on New Year's Day.
All of the offenses are alleged to have taken place in Ottawa between Oct. 14, shortly after the family returned to Canada, and Dec. 30. A court order prevents publication of any information that would identify any victims or witnesses. Among the charges is causing an unidentified person to ingest “a noxious thing, namely Trazodone,” an antidepressant drug.
It’s the latest twist in the strange story of Boyle, the son of a Canadian tax court judge. Boyle was abducted by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network along with his pregnant American wife, Caitlan Coleman, while they were backpacking in Afghanistan's Wardak province in 2012. The couple spent the next five years as hostages, during which Coleman gave birth to three children.
Coleman, Boyle and their children were set free in Pakistan in October 2017 and flown back to Canada, but they almost immediately showed signs of stress. A week after their arrival, Coleman was rushed to the hospital with an unspecified ailment. A statement issued at the time, purportedly by Boyle’s family, said the couple was “deeply traumatized and Josh is not of clear thought as he speaks at times.”
In a statement to the Toronto Star on Tuesday after Boyle’s arrest, Coleman declined to comment on the charges but said that “ultimately it is the strain and trauma he was forced to endure for so many years and the effects that had on his mental state that is most culpable for this.” Eric Granger, Boyle’s attorney, told the Star that his client had never been in trouble with the law before, describing him as “a young man who we all know has been through a lot.”
Interviewed after the family’s liberation in October, Coleman’s father, Jim, expressed anger with his son-in-law. Jim Coleman, who lives in Stewartstown, Pa., told ABC News that “taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable.” Coleman’s parents were reportedly in Ottawa with their daughter on Monday.
It has always been unclear what Boyle and Coleman were doing in Afghanistan. In one interview, Boyle said that they had decided to travel there “to fix things.” Although he once described himself to a friend as “a hippie Mennonite love child,” Boyle had long been fascinated by radical Islam and was married for a time to Zaynab Khadr, an elder sister of Omar Khadr, a Pakistani Canadian who as a 15-year-old was arrested and charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan.
Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to the killing but then recanted, claiming that his confession had been coerced. He spent 10 years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being returned to Canada in 2012. Khadr sued the Canadian government for breaching his constitutional rights and was recently awarded a settlement of 10.5 million Canadian dollars ($8.4 million) and a government apology.
Boyle and Coleman were last in the news just before Christmas, when a photo appeared on Twitter of the family visiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his parliamentary office. There was no comment from Trudeau’s office after Boyle’s arrest.