LONDON (Reuters) - The sister of a Briton suspected of being the masked militant fronting an Islamic State execution video said on Tuesday she believed her brother had been brainwashed but she wanted him to come home and hoped he could still be rehabilitated.
Siddhartha Dhar has been identified by media as the spokesman in a film released by IS earlier this month which showed the killing of five men it accused of being Western spies, although there has been no official confirmation.
Appearing before Members of Parliament, Dhar’s sister Konika agreed that the militant in the video sounded like her brother but said she had still not been told by the authorities if it was definitely him.
“I don’t want to believe that he is who he is today,” she told parliament’s Home Affairs Committee. “As far as I‘m concerned I grew up with a different person.”
Siddhartha Dhar, who converted from Hinduism and was known as Abu Rumaysah, left Britain for Syria a year ago with his wife and four children while on police bail following his arrest on suspicion of belonging to a banned group and encouraging terrorism.
Already a known Islamist in Britain who had often appeared on television, a picture he placed on Twitter showing him in Syria holding a gun and cradling a baby was widely used in the media.
His sister said she did not want to believe he was involved in the murders or rapes the committee highlighted as being carried out by Islamic State, and said she believed he was still a good man.
“My opinion will always be biased because he’s my brother,” she said. Asked if he could be rehabilitated, she replied: “I would like to think so.”
She said Dhar had converted to Islam in his late teens but only became involved in more radical beliefs a few years later.
“He was fun-loving, very laid back, easy going, very friendly with everyone,” she said. “It’s quite hard for me to even know within myself what it was that triggered him to become the person that he is today.”
She told the committee he had fallen in with the wrong crowd when he was growing up and that might have played a pivotal role.
“I don’t want to give up on him and I think that’s a mistake that many families can make,” she said.
“I‘m determined to have him return home to the person that I remember. If that can’t be done maybe that’s something I have to accept. I feel I haven’t reached that point yet.”
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison