THE LEVANT – The British aid worker held hostage in Syria was tortured by his terrorist kidnappers during the first months of his captivity, it has emerged.
David Haines was regularly beaten by his captors, who may have singled him out for ill-treatment because of his nationality.
He was so badly treated that his kidnappers felt the need to get him medical attention, and in recent months he has been treated more “humanely”, former hostages who were held with him have told his family.
Over a nine-month period Haines was moved at least ten times to different locations all over Syria. His cellmates included James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the two US hostages who have been beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
He was working for the French aid organisation Acted (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) at the Atmeh refugee camp in northern Syria when he was abducted on March 12, 2013.
Haines is believed to have been kidnapped by a gang which sold him on to Isil months later. Federico Motka, an Italian-Swiss aid worker who was kidnapped with him, was freed in May this year after the Italian government reportedly paid a ransom of almost £5 million.
Between July last year and April this year Haines was held with four French journalists, all of whom were released in April. He gave one of them a message to pass on to his family, saying he was being treated well.
But that was not always the case, according to a friend, who said: “During the first months of his captivity he was very badly treated. After that they helped him to recover. They even provided him with medical care, though it was extremely basic.”
Foley, 40, who was beheaded last month, was subjected to mock executions and regular torture because of his American nationality.
Motka was also reportedly tortured. He has not spoken publicly about his time in captivity, and his grandmother Alessandra Motka said yesterday: “He has already told all he has to say to the Italian foreign office,” she said.
At the time of his release, Italy’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, said Motka had been freed after “complex and delicate” work by Italian officials.