17:09, September 30 258 0 theguardian.com

2019-09-30 17:09:03
Lawyers for former Taliban hostage say he’s ‘not easy to like’ but didn’t abuse wife

The Canadian man who spent five years as a hostage in Afghanistan with his American wife, is “arrogant” and “argumentative”– but is nonetheless not guilty of abusing his wife, defence lawyers have argued, as the closely-watched criminal trial neared its end.

Joshua Boyle’s legal team suggested on Monday that, while their client could be frustrating “to the point of infuriating”, these personal deficiencies should not be construed as guilt.

“He is not easy to like. He is not a conventional … by society’s so-called ‘norms’,” said lawyer Lawrence Greenspon. “But [Boyle] is a person who tells the truth, even if it’s not to his own advantage.”

Boyle, 36, has pleaded not guilty to 19 charges of assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement.

Wearing a caramel-coloured shirt with a red corduroy vest, Boyle sat in an Ottawa courtroom with his parents and sister, frequently taking notes on a white legal pad.

Caitlan Coleman, and her mother Linda, participated in the proceedings through video link at the Canadian embassy in Washington DC.

Boyle and Coleman, who married in 2011, were kidnapped during a trip to Afghanistan in 2012. The pair were later transferred to the control of the militant Haqqani network. The couple had three children while in captivity and in November 2017, the family was freed by Pakistani forces. After release, they moved to Ottawa, until Boyle was arrested on 31 December 2017.

During closing arguments on Monday, Greenspon highlighted parts of Boyle’s testimony which he admitted were damaging for the accused.

Boyle admitted to criticizing his wife, fighting often, and striking her once while the two were in captivity, said Greenspon.

“He told the truth … where adopting a different path would have been much simpler,” he said.

Greenspon said that a list of demands from Boyle which Coleman had described (including instructions on her weight, and the frequency of sexual intercourse) was nothing more than a list of “New Year’s resolutions”.

Greenspon also took aim at Coleman’s testimony, suggesting it was “neither credible nor reliable”.

“There is no eyewitness or physical evidence to corroborate any of the 19 charges [against Boyle],” said Greenspon, suggesting the American had provided testimony that had only “mild corroboration”.

Before the two sides began closing arguments, the court heard about the erosion of the marriage between Coleman and Boyle as lawyers re-examined witnesses.

“I became very angry with Josh that he had brought us [to Afghanistan],” Coleman told the court on Monday, saying the couple fought frequently.

Coleman also vigorously denied a suggestion from the defence that she traded chocolate with the guards for “mock execution” of Boyle. “That is absolutely not correct,” she said.

Under examination by the crown, Coleman described feelings of inadequacy both in captivity and while the couple lived in Ottawa.

“I struggled with shame … he was telling me I wasn’t a good enough wife. I felt like I couldn’t possibly be the person he’s always demanding,” said.

While much of the early trial focused on the allegations of sexual abuse towards Coleman, the defence has spent recent weeks unearthing documentation and testimony to suggest that the acts Coleman has accused Boyle of were consensual.

The trial, which began in March, has been plagued by delays – including while the court considered whether Coleman’s sexual history should be admitted.

Despite a judge’s order not to speak publicly about the case, Coleman granted a number of interviews to Canadian and American media outlets, prompting a number of procedural tangents in the trial.

The prosecution will rest its case in the coming days. Boyle has opted for the trial to be overseen by a judge only.