Former Taliban hostage admits striking wife but says she asked to be hit

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Photograph: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

The Canadian man who spent five years held hostage in Afghanistan with his American wife has admitted striking her with a broom, but told a court in Ottawa that she asked to be hit, as his trial for sexual assault nears its conclusion.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors on Tuesday, Joshua Boyle claimed he struck his estranged wife, Caitlan Coleman, several times in December 2017. But he had acted not out of anger, but because she frequently asked to be spanked.

Related: Canadian man held hostage by Taliban denies assaulting wife after release

Boyle and Coleman, who married in 2011, were kidnapped by Afghan militants during a backpacking trip in 2012 and were transferred to the custody of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

Boyle has pleaded not guilty to assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement betweenOctober and December 2017, after the couple returned to Ottawa.

Since taking the stand last week, Boyle, 36 has worked to counter the prosecution’s depiction that he was a manipulative and abusive husband.

Related: Taliban hostage couple face each other in Canada courtroom

He is also accused of administering a noxious substance.

On Tuesday, he disputed accusations that he drugged Coleman with the anti-depressant trazadone, instead testifying he had offered her the drug because she was prone to “fits”.

Hygiene routines – in disarray after five years in captivity – were a point of friction between him and Coleman, he said.

He told the court that on 5 November – about a month after they were rescued by Pakistan security forces – Coleman flew into a rage when he suggested that she took a shower before meeting his parents.

“I don’t remember if I invoked the fact both my mother and father had complained about Caitlan’s hygiene,” said Boyle. “Meeting in public was often embarrassing for them.”

Earlier in the week, Boyle accused Coleman of “incompetence” as a mother, saying that while in captivity, Coleman would “shut down”, neglecting to feed their newborn or change diapers, prompting him to ask guards for food for the child.

Even after the family was rescued in 2017 and brought to Canada, Boyle claimed Coleman would strike and violently shake their oldest child in their family’s Ottawa apartment.

In previous testimony from March and April, Coleman claimed Boyle was mercurial and violent, choking, punching and biting her. In addition to cataloguing numerous instances of sexual assault, she also alleged Boyle threatened to kill her – in front of their children.

But during-cross examination, Boyle dismissed the accusation that he was manipulative in their relationship, suggesting Coleman’s behaviour and accusations could be attributed to mental illness. He also claimed that his demands that Coleman maintain a certain weight and dress in a specific manner were merely “suggestions” that she could have freely disregarded.

The trial, which began in March, has been marred by numerous procedural delays over what material – including Coleman’s past sexual history – is admissible in court.

The proceedings also came to a standstill in July after Coleman gave several interviews to media outlets about her time in captivity, despite an order from the judge not to discuss the case.

The defence will question Boyle on Wednesday, with closing arguments scheduled for the end of September.