December 18, 2015 / 10:40 PM / 4 years ago

Canadian who killed friend in psychedelic ceremony in Peru freed by police

LIMA (Reuters) - A Canadian man who authorities say killed his British friend in self-defense after the two drank a hallucinogenic brew at a spiritual retreat in the Amazon has been released, a police chief said on Friday.

Joshua Stevens, 29, was freed because all evidence showed he stabbed his friend Unais Gomes, 26, in self-defense after Gomes tried to attack him with a knife, said Normando Marques, a police chief in the Amazonian city of Iquitos.

Stevens’ fiancee, Sarah-Anne Allen, said that all charges had been dropped and Stevens would be going home to Canada “soon.”

“He is very shaken and sad, but he is coping,” Allen said.

Canada’s foreign affairs department said it was providing consular assistance to a citizen “released from detention in Peru.” It declined to identify the person in order to protect privacy.

Stevens and Gomes were taking part in a ceremony that used ayahuasca - a hallucinogenic brew - at the alternative health center Phoenix Ayahuasca near Iquitos. There, Gomes took a knife from the kitchen and tried to attack Stevens, witnesses told police.

Contact information for Gomes’ family could not be found.

Phoenix Ayahuasca has not responded to requests for comment.

Ayahuasca is a boiled blend of an Amazonian vine and dimethyltryptamine (DMT)-containing plants traditionally used by indigenous tribes in medical and spiritual ceremonies. It is not normally associated with violence.

A growing number of tourists have come to Peru in recent years to try the brew, many drawn by ayahuasca’s reputation as a way to ease depression, cure addiction or gain spiritual insights.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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