The mystery continues on the Aubenas kidnapping
Tuesday I blogged on French reporter Florence Aubenas’s plea for help. Ms Aubenas, a war correspondent who was kidnapped on January 5, pleaded in English for the intervention of Didier Julia. The video (avalable here), clearly shows that Ms Aubenas is in a very bad state, and is upsetting to watch. There has been no word on Ms Aubenas’s guide and interpreter Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi.
Following the release of the Aubenas video, which was not shown on France2 TV, Didier Julia stated to the media that it was possible that sh’s being held by “people I might know”. The daily Le Figaro says that Julia “has offered to reactivate his contacts (in Iraq) on condition that the proceedings against him are dropped”, a statement which is also reported by Expatica
Julia, in his statement to AFP, underlined that the video “contains a single and solitary demand: my mediation.”
To ignore that would be “to run risks” with the lives of Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter, Hussein Hanun al-Saadi, both of whom were taken after leaving their Baghdad hotel on January 5, he said.
But while he was “ready without any hesitation” to help, he stressed that he could not do so until legal action targeting him and his two assistants was lifted.
The assistants, Philippe Brett, a pro-Saddam lobbyist, and Philippe Evenno, a UMP party member, “know all my contacts in Iraq and also themselves have many other contacts in the country which are totally necessary for the mediation requested,” he said.
At the next meeting of the Assembly, (see France2 news, 7 minutes into the broadcast) Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin asked deputy Didier Julia, yesterday on the floor of the Assembly, for help in securing the release of reporter Florence Aubenas, and requested that Julia cooperate unconditionally with French intelligence with any information he might have. Raffarin clearly stated that Julia is forbiden from embarking on any “parallel diplomacy” — hardly surprising, considering last year’s fiasco. So far Julia still faces investigation.
The reaction has been swift. As the NY Times reported,
Raffarin decision to turn to Julia underlined the government’s desperation over the plight of Aubenas, a 43-year old journalist with French newspaper Liberation who went missing in Baghdad with her Iraqi driver on Jan. 5.
Blogger Douglas is dismayed,
Julia has now been enlisted, disowned, accepted, disavowed and the enlisted again… gobsmacking …simply unbelievable.
The BBC lists the reaction of newspapers Libération (Ms Aubenas’s employer) and Le Figaro. Libération has an extensive report (in French) on Ms Aubenas’s ordeal. As the BBC stated, Libération
thinks the kidnapping may have been “hijacked for geostrategic reasons” with the aim of “bringing pressure to bear on President Chirac” following his recent statements calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and supporting the democratic process in Iraq.
Whether Julia’s cooperation will be forthcoming, and to what extent the French goverment will be willing to have him in the picture, remains to be seen.
(also posted at Blogger News Network)