Photo Credit: Screenshot of video by Shajul Islam
Calls for regime change in Syria are once again filling the airwaves, and President Donald Trump has said he is considering further military intervention in the country.
(Update: After this article was published, the U.S. launched a missile attack on a Syrian government airfield, which ISIS subsequently exploited.)
Media outlets have been pouring fuel on the fire of war. One of the key voices calling for Western intervention that is being amplified by corporate news networks is Shajul Islam, a doctor in the al-Qaeda-controlled Syrian province of Idlib.
Islam has accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack on civilians. Dozens of major media outlets have cited his claims, while conceding that they have not been independently verified.
Meanwhile, these news publications have failed to disclose a crucial detail about the doctor: He was accused in court of kidnapping journalists in Syria.
In October 2012, Shajul Islam was arrested in the UK and charged with kidnapping two photographers, one British and one Dutch. He was accused of providing medical treatment for the Salafi jihadist extremist group in Syria that held the journalists hostage.
The case eventually fell apart and the charges against Islam were dropped because the prosecution was not able to hear evidence from the victims, who were the key witnesses. The attorney said this served “to frustrate the trial from the point of view of the prosecution.”
John Cantlie, one of the journalists Islam was accused of kidnapping, was unable to appear at the trial because he was still a hostage. He had been briefly freed in July 2012, but was soon kidnapped again — this time by ISIS. Cantlie was held with James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded on camera by Mohamed Emwazi, an ISIS foreign fighter from London.
Islam’s younger brother, Razul, reportedly entered Syria to volunteer as a foreign fighter in the ranks of ISIS.
Sometime in 2016, Shajul Islam smuggled himself back into Syria and is now working in Idlib.
AlterNet previously detailed how Idlib is the “heartland” of al-Qaeda, as even hawkish pundits who have repeatedly called for further Western military intervention in Syria have acknowledged.
None of these facts stopped major news outlets from citing Islam’s claims and social media posts in their reports on the alleged Idlib chemical attack, including CBS News, Fox News, McClatchy, the Daily Beast, Voice of America, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, CBC, Politico, the Independent, Vocativ, Bellingcat, Euronews, Middle East Eye, the Mirror, Metro, the Daily Mail, the Sun and UNILAD.
NBC News and Middle East Eye published entire profiles on Islam without identifying the past accusations against him.
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