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Former Taliban hostage arrested for alleged sexual assault and unlawful confinement

A father held hostage by Taliban-linked militants  in Afghanistan and Pakistan for five years has been charged with sexual assault.

A father held hostage by Taliban-linked militants  in Afghanistan and Pakistan for five years has been charged with sexual assault.

Joshua Boyle, 34, who with his wife Caitlan Coleman Boyle was captured by the Haqqani network in Afghanistan in October 2012, will have his case discussed during a brief preliminary hearing at a court in Ottowa, Canada, on Wednesday.

The Canadian citizen, whose American wife gave birth to their three children while in captivity, faces a total of 15 charges, including eight counts of assault, two of sexual assault, two claims of unlawful confinement, and one accusation of uttering death threats.

All the alleged offences are said to have occurred after the Boyles returned to Canada having been rescued following a gunfight between Pakistani security forces and their captors in October 2017.  A court order prevents identification of any of the alleged victims.

Boyle’s lawyer Eric Granger has said: "Mr Boyle is presumed innocent. He's never been in trouble before.  We look forward to receiving the evidence and defending him against these charges."

Ms Boyle, originally from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, told the Toronto Star: “I can’t speak about the specific charges, but I can say that ultimately it is the strain and trauma he was forced to endure for so many years and the effects that that had on his mental state that is most culpable for this.”

After being rescued, the couple said their captors had killed one unborn daughter by forcing Ms Boyle to undergo an abortion.  

They also said Ms Boyle was raped while they were being held hostage in Afghanistan and Pakistan, being drugged and put in the boots of cars when the Haqqani network guerrillas wanted to move them.

Ms Boyle had been heavily pregnant with their first child when the couple were captured during an extended backpacking trip that had taken them to a remote area of Afghanistan outside Kabul.  Mr Boyle has previously said he and his wife had gone to the area to assist people "who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help."

After their first baby was born, the couple decided to have more children, despite being in captivity.

Shortly after her release, Ms Boyle explained to the Toronto Star: “It’s difficult to explain all the reasons, but, for me, a large part was that it has always been important to me to have a large family.

“This [was] captivity with no end in sight. And so I felt that it was our best choice at that time. We didn’t know if we would have that opportunity when we came back. We didn’t know how long it would be.”

The couple, however, said that after Mr Boyle refused to join the Haqqani network, the militants killed their unborn daughter, whom they called Martyr, by dosing Ms Boyle’s food to make her oestrogen levels so abnormally high that she miscarried.

“They killed her [Martyr] by dosing the food,” Ms Boyle said. “They put massive doses of oestrogen in the food.”

Ms Boyle said after that she kept her two later pregnancies secret, with her husband delivering the babies by torchlight while she kept as quiet as possible despite her labour pain.

The family’s ordeal ended on October 11 2017 when Pakistani security services rescued them as they were being transported in a car boot.

Mr Boyle said he had been hit by shrapnel during the shootout and the last thing he remembered his captors saying was “kill the hostages”.

After the successful rescue, Ms Boyle’s parents expressed delight that she had been freed, but reportedly expressed anger that their son-in-law had taken their heavily pregnant daughter to Afghanistan.

The Boyles met over the Internet and married in Costa Rica in 2011.

Mr Boyle had previously been briefly married to Zaynab Khadr, the older sister of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

Canadian-born Mr Khadr was 15 when he was captured by US troops after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002.  He had been taken to Afghanistan by his father, who had reportedly been a senior al-Qaeda financier.

Mr Khadr, who protested his innocence and said he had only pleaded guilty to war crimes because he saw it as his sole hope of getting out of Guantanamo Bay, was returned to Canada in 2012 and released from custody in 2015.

In 2014 US officials said that Boyle’s link to Khadr’s sister had nothing to do with him and his wife being taken hostage.  One official told the Associated Press that the link was just a “horrible coincidence.”

After the Boyles were released, members of the Haqqani network and the Taliban denied the couple’s claims of rape and forced abortion.