James Le Mesurier, a former British army officer who founded the Mayday Rescue group, an international organization which helps train civilians in safety and rescue procedures in combat zones, was found dead near his office in Istanbul, Turkey early Monday morning.
His organization has issued a statement:
It is with very heavy hearts that Mayday Rescue must confirm the death of James Le Mesurier.
As the Founder and CEO of Mayday Rescue, James dedicated his life to helping civilians respond to emergencies in conflicts and natural disasters. Nowhere was the impact of his important work felt so strongly as in Syria, where Mayday supports a network of volunteer rescue workers known as Syria Civil Defence, also known as The White Helmets. Their work has saved countless lives of civilians affected by the conflict.
Le Mesurier was honored with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) award in 2016 for his work in saving hundreds of lives in Syria.
Last week, he came under direct attack by Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had accused Le Mesurier of being a former British agent who has “been spotted all around the world, including in the Balkans and the Middle East.”Associated Press
“Given the role of the West in undermining stability in these regions, it is not difficult to assume what the British intelligence officer did there,” she said.
Turkish law enforcement is investigating Le Mesurier’s death as a possible suicide. The official news agency has reported that he was taking anti-depressant medication for high stress.
CNN spoke to one of Le Mesurier’s friends, freelance journalist Oz Katerji, about the incident.
“His wife did not suspect foul play, but she was asleep so can’t confirm that 100%.”
“The balcony was not high off the ground though and police haven’t ruled out foul play yet.”CNN
Russia, which has seen significant gains in recent weeks in its influence both in Syria and in Turkey, has repeatedly denounced the Syrian civil defense White Helmets group which was primarily trained and organized by Mayday Rescue. In October at the United Nations, Russia demanded the immediate withdrawal of all foreign aid to the White Helmets and the disbanding of the group, calling it a terrorist organization; that assertion drew immediate condemnation from other countries present.