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Canada judge dismisses assault charges against former Taliban hostage

(Reuters) - An Ottawa judge on Thursday dismissed all 19 charges against former Taliban hostage Joshua Boyle, who was charged with sexual assault of his estranged wife, Caitlan Coleman.

FILE PHOTO: Former Taliban hostage Joshua Boyle, who is facing criminal charges in Canada related to incidents after his release from captivity, arrives at the courthouse in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Boyle denied all charges, and his lawyer alleged that Coleman was the abusive one in the relationship.

Boyle’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, had argued there was enough reasonable doubt behind Coleman’s account to make a guilty finding impossible. Judge Peter Doody said he did not find Boyle credible or Coleman reliable, and so could not make a finding of guilt.

“This was really, in large part, a ‘he said, she said’ - there was very, very little confirmatory evidence,” Greenspon told Reuters. “And ultimately, (the judge) didn’t believe Caitlan and he had many doubts about Josh’s testimony.”

Coleman was “devastated” by the verdict, her lawyer Ian Carter told Reuters. “I think the case is an example of the challenges a complainant faces when they’re making allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence, at least as it relates to the criminal courts,” Carter said.

Boyle and Coleman were kidnapped in October 2012 while backpacking in Afghanistan. They spent five years in captivity, during which their three children were born.

Boyle said a fourth child had been murdered and his spouse raped after their capture by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network. The Taliban denied the accusations of rape and murder.

Boyle was arrested just months after the family returned to Canada.

Greenspon said his client will now seek to regain access to, and custody of, his children.

“He’s spent five months in custody, we got him out on bail, he has been living with his parents with an electronic monitoring bracelet 24/7. So today’s decision was a huge relief for him and his family.”

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler