by Jennifer Lawrence | November 29, 2014 10:45 pm
Unbelievable! An American photographer held hostage by Syrian rebels for seven months has told of his horrors in dealing with the FBI after he managed to escape.
An American photographer held hostage by Syrian rebels for seven months has told of his horrors in dealing with the FBI after he managed to escape.
Matthew Schrier, from Syosset, New York, was captured by Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant group aligned with al-Qaeda, as he traveled in Syria in December 2012.
He was taken to a compound near Aleppo and locked up before escaping from a gap in a basement window on July 29 last year, he said.
Now the 36-year-old has revealed the shocking treatment he suffered by during and after his ordeal because of the FBI – including being forced to reimburse the State Department the $1,605 they paid for Schrier’s flight home.
In a new interview with McClatchy DC, Schrier said the FBI waited six months to contact his family to let them know he had been captured.
He previously said that the rebels had emailed his parents pretending to be him and assuring them he was fine.
With his parents none the wiser, Schrier’s captors were able to drain his bank account of $17,000.
The next time the FBI calls me will be the first time,’ said Schrier’s father, Jeffrey, outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told McClatchy.
‘I thank God my son was able to escape, because if he was waiting for the government to spring him he would still be waiting in that hellhole.’
Once Schrier was back in the US, it was a matter of weeks before he recieved the bill for his airfare.
He says that a psychiatrist assigned to help him with the experience and his return cancelled five times in the first two months.
He was put up in a hotel for one month after his return, but after that time the FBI suggested he go to a homeless shelter.
Schrier waited five months to receive a new ID and Social Security number, after his cards were stolen, copied and used multiple times.
‘It is like a scam. I don’t understand what they do, victims services,’ Schrier told McClatchy.
‘The FBI has made it impossible for me to recover.’
Before he fled, Schrier said he was beaten with a metal cable across his feet and given electrical shocks.
Schrier was one of several Westerners in rebel-held territory since the civil war began.
He said he was traveling without a commission from a media organization and had attempted to leave Aleppo by taxi on December 31.
But the vehicle was stopped and he was taken by the rebels.
Schrier was also whipped with cable on the soles of his feet while his knees were wedged in a car tire, and he was questioned by men speaking fluent English whom he guessed were Canadian.
Schrier’s mother grew worried about getting no word from her son and reported him missing to the State Department on January 31 – exactly one month after he was taken.
Schrier’s mother did not realize at first that he was just one of several Americans being held hostage in Syria, McClatchy reported.
Upon learning of it, she discovered there were missing-persons posters for other hostages but not one for her son.
Schrier said when she contacted the FBI to asked why this was, they quickly put a poster up online.
Schrier eventually slipped from a gap in a basement window early on July 29, he said, leaving behind his cellmate.
Schrier said he was able to stand on his cellmate’s back and unravel a wire mesh covering a window.
Just before dawn, he wriggled out but the cellmate got stuck.
Schrier said he walked to a road and flagged a car.
He was able to get a ride to the Turkey border, where he was helped by American officials.
The White House told McClatchy that they would not comment on Schrier’s new claims.
The FBI released a statement over the interview.
‘When an American is detained illegally overseas, the FBI’s top priority is ensuring the safe return of that individual,’ the statement said.
‘To that end the FBI provides support services to victims and their families, to include help in meeting short-term exigent needs, and shares information about their loved ones that is timely and appropriate.’
Earlier this month the Obama administration said it was reviewing the way government agencies handle hostages and their families after three American hostages were beheaded in Syria.
After all this poor man and his family went through, the least they would do was pay for his flight.
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