UK

Konika Dhar, Sister Of 'New Jihadi John', Appears Shaken During Home Affairs Select Committee Questioning

19/01/2016 17:45 GMT | Updated 22/01/2016 17:59 GMT

The sister of so called Islamic State convert dubbed the "new Jihadi John" has pledged to not give up hope he can be rehabilitated, under direct and blunt questioning by MPs.

Konika Dhar's older brother Siddhartha Dhar is the prime suspect in the hunt to establish the identity of the British-accented, hooded executioner in the latest IS video, which was released earlier this month and shows a hooded man shooting people accused of being enemy spies.

Siddhartha Dhar, who became known as Abu Rumyasah after converting from Hinduism to Islam, fled to Syria in 2014 with his wife and children and then tweeted mocking remarks about the security services.

He appeared on national television endorsing the ideals of IS and left the country after being arrested and having his passport confiscated.

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The man in the IS video (above) and Dhar appearing on the BBC in 2014 (below)
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Appearing shaken before parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, his 29-year-old sister Konika said she would not "give up all hope" on her 32-year-old brother.

"Most of all, families shouldn't give up all hope because that's when it's doomed and there's no going back," she said. "The mistake any family member can make is giving up on their loved one... giving up on the hope they might return to a normal state."

She said she had not seen her brother in over a year and had not lived with him in close to a decade. She drew a distinction between Siddhartha Dhar, whom she knew as "Sid" growing up, and Rumyasah, the man her brother became, whom she believes was "brainwashed" and influenced by the "wrong crowd".

Ms Dhar mulled many of the MPs' direct questions carefully before answering, sometimes saying she was unwilling to answer.

The hearing was streamed live and broadcast on the major news channels.

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Konika Dhar before the committee

In a particularly difficult exchange, MP Nusrat Ghani listed the crimes of IS, including "enslavement, beheadings" and asked whether she thought her brother took part in such horrors. "This is what Daesh [IS] does," she said.

Ghani began to describe a specific case where a 12-year-old girl was raped and had to stop to fight back tears.

"These are the activities your brother's engaged in. Do you still believe he's a good man?"

Ms Dhar re-iterated her view that it is not proven her brother is the man in the IS video.

READ MORE: Experts Raise 5 Reasons To Question 'Identity' Of New Isis Executioner

"I don't want to believe he is involved in those things [beheadings and enslavement]," Ms Dhar said. "That's because he's my brother. I grew up with a different person."

"I'd like to believe my brother wasn't involved in that," she added, saying she prioritised her brother's actions over those of IS. "I want to know what he's involved in. I'm sorry if that sounds selfish."

Ghani asked if she still wanted to her brother to come home. Ms Dhar said this might be a "little bit wishful".

She added: "I don't want to give up on him. That's the mistake many families can make. I said I wanted him home because I am determined to have him return home to the person I remember. If that can't be done that's just something I'll have to accept. I believe I haven't reached that point yet."

When asked if she could imagine ever enjoying Sunday lunch with him again, she said: "I would be appalled if... This is so hard."

Committee chair Keith Vaz told her she could not answer a question if she found it uncomfortable but she said: "I would like to get it right, what I'm saying. I don't want to my message to be misinformed.

After a pause, she said: "I don't know what to say. I honestly would like to see him home. I think I've accepted the reality that he won't now. I'd like to consider other options, whether he can live somewhere else peacefully."

She was praised for her calm, thoughtful demeanour during the session.

Later, Labour MP Chuka Umunna asked Ms Dhar if she felt "responsible" for what happened to her brother.

She said: "I feel a sense of guilt. I've lost my brother, why could I not stop it? He's a part of me.

"I feel as though, there's an obligation on my part as a younger sister to make sure he's ok and if he's not ok then I must've failed him somehow, that's how I feel."

Mr Dhar was nicknamed the new "Jihadi John" in reference to Mohammed Emwazi, the previous masked killer who was killed in a drone strike in November.

Before he fled for Syria, Mr Dhar was interviewed for a documentary The Jihadis Next Door, to be broadcast this evening on Channel 4.

Showing off his flag collection, he told the filmmakers: "These are the black flags of Islam. This one's actually the flag of the Islamic State, so one day when the Sharia comes, you will see this black flag everywhere."