The former British military officer who was found dead in front of his house in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district was not actually the founder of the White Helmets group, an executive of the group officially known as the Syria Civil Defense has said.
James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier died in the early hours of Nov. 11, prompting a detailed investigation by prosecutors due to his profile.
“James was not our founder nor trainer. He was the CEO of the Mayday [Rescue Foundation], which supports White Helmets,” said Raed Al Saleh, an executive of the Syria Civil Defense.
“White Helmets was not founded by an individual, but by a group of people. I knew James in person, and his death has saddened all of us,” he added.
The White Helmets have been credited with saving thousands of people in rebel-held areas during years of bombing in the country’s civil war. The Syrian government and Russian forces accuse them of being spies, a claim they reject.
“White Helmets was founded by a group of people including teachers, firefighters, doctors and other professions with an aim of helping civilians. In 2014, when we had been providing service in many villages and cities, we got our first training in Turkey. We started to get support from other organizations like Mayday at the same time,” said Saleh.
“Russia and the Syrian regime talk like that about us because they hate us. They attack our teams on the field every day. They attack us because they want to prevent us helping civilians. Moreover, they don’t want us to witness the crimes committed against the Syrian people,” he added.
Saleh also said that he knew about Mesurier’s background as a former military officer. But he reiteratedthat the former British officer never attended a managerial meeting of the White Helmets.
“He only attended meetings between Mayday and the White Helmets,” Saleh said.
Hurriyet Daily News