Turkey reportedly swapped Belgian prisoner with IS

The latest story of a Belgian citizen trying to join the Islamic State, seems to reveal a controversial swap by the Turkish government. According to a list that is widely circulating now, the Belgian was caught on his way to Syria. But Turkey exchanged him with IS as part of the deal about the Turkish hostages that recently were set free.

Johan Castillo Boens (35) isn’t the average Belgian fighter within IS. He is the son of a retired professor at the chemistry department of Leuven University, whose wife comes from the Philippines. They raised their son as a christian, but Johan converted to islam several years ago after some serious personal troubles. Nowadays, he is married with a woman from the Philippines himself. They have five children, of which the youngest one was born in June of this year. His wife was also a christian, but has followed him into islam.

According to his mother, Johan didn’t manage to find a decent job, although he has studied business management and took additional courses in IT. “Because he is half Philippino, he looks a bit like a foreigner”, she is quoted today in the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. “And letting his beard grow, made things only worse. We often tried to convince him to shave off that beard. It isn’t necessary that everyone can see you’re a muslim, we told. But he didn’t want to listen. Recently, he spoke about moving to Jordania and in August he left to search there for a job.”

At least, that was what he told. Two separate sources informed us this week that Johan went to Turkey instead, trying to join the Islamic State in Syria. According to the first source, his name is on a list of several European IS supporters that were recently caught by the Turkish police. The second told us that he was in Turkey indeed about fortnight ago, but since has crossed the Syrian border. Caught or gone to Syria? That seems to be a contradiction. But both sources say they have indications that Johan was part of a shadowy deal.

At least one other man — a Briton, we are told — was mentioned on the same list, but has joined IS in Syria now. It is thought that Turkey has handed them over to IS as a part of the exchange that has set 49 Turkish hostages free, including the staff of the Turkish consulate in Mosul. According to the Turkish press, there has been such a swap indeed. But until now, it was thought Turkey only persuaded the Syrian resistance movement Liwa al-Tawheed to hand over some of their IS detainees, but didn’t release anyone itself. The fate of Johan Castillo Boens possibly can prove otherwise. If he really is in Syria now after being detained by the Turkish authorities, Ankara will have to explain a few things.

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