TORONTO — An Ontario man freed by the Taliban after being held hostage for five years has yet to return to Canada but is recovering from his ordeal, the prime minister said Wednesday.
Justin Trudeau’s comments about Colin Rutherford offered a hint at the condition of the man who was abruptly set free in Afghanistan earlier this week.
“We are continuing to monitor his recovery,” Trudeau told reporters while visiting city hall in Toronto. “Obviously a very difficult ordeal for five years. We look forward to him returning to Canada soon.”
The Taliban has said it freed Rutherford on Monday “on grounds of humanitarian sympathy and sublime Islamic ethics.”
The federal government hasn’t said where Rutherford is currently, or when he’ll return to his family in Toronto.
Rutherford was on a private vacation in Afghanistan when he was captured by the Taliban in November 2010.
His release was suddenly announced on Monday by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who provided few details, but said that the government of Qatar had been involved in bringing about Rutherford’s release.
Trudeau publicly acknowledged the role of the Middle Eastern country when discussing Rutherford’s case on Wednesday.
“We appreciate the support that the government of Qatar gave,” he said. “Everyone worked hard to try and secure Mr. Rutherford’s release.”
The Taliban has also confirmed Qatar’s involvement and has said it had been holding Rutherford in Afghanistan’s northeastern Ghazni province.
A local Afghan police chief has said the Canadian’s release involved a helicopter landing to scoop Rutherford to freedom as fighter jets flew overhead.
The last indication Rutherford’s family had that he was alive came in a 2011 video released by insurgents where he answered questions. An accompanying email accused Rutherford, then 26, of being a spy.
In the video, Rutherford, who is from Toronto, insisted he was not a spy and had travelled to Afghanistan to study historical sites, old buildings and shrines.
Rutherford’s brother has called the Canadian’s release “incredible news” and has said Rutherford’s well-being is a priority.
Rutherford was working as an auditor with the Canadian Circulations Audit Board in Toronto when he went on vacation to Afghanistan.