Sgrena freed, French bicker
As with the prior hostage situation, the Italian hostage has been released before the French hostage, even when Italy is a member of the Coalition: Italian journalist freed in Iraq amid bickering over French hostage
As Italians celebrated Sgrena’s release, French officials and relatives of Aubenas bickered over how best to press efforts to secure her freedom.
In a videotape released earlier this week, the journalist appealed specifically for the intervention of a self-styled mediator long disowned by the French authorities, but officials and family alike suggested the plea had been made under duress.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Thursday called on Aubenas’s abductors to communicate “only with official French services”.
He said it would be “unacceptable” for maverick MP Didier Julia to renew his involvement in hostage rescue missions after he nearly torpedoed efforts to free two other kidnapped French journalists late last year.
But Aubenas’s mother Jacqueline voiced exasperation at the official bickering. “I really couldn’t care less whether Mr Julia is involved or not,” she said.
“I want Florence to be freed and not be used as a pawn in the battles between power cliques, in personal and secret struggles, in the jostling between services. Really, I am outraged.”
Julia, a 71-year-old Arabic speaker, attempted to portray the government as playing with the journalist’s life by not involving him as a mediator.
“Either Jean-Pierre Raffarin is in the process of saving Florence Aubenas with the (intelligence) services, in which case he has absolutely no need of me and I would be the first to welcome that.
“Or he is putting Florence Aubenas in an extremely difficult situation,” Julia told AFP.
Serge July, Ms Aubenas’s boss at Libération, is optimistic (article in French) that the Sgrena release will also mean Ms Aubenas will soon be released, and stated that, compared to Ms Sgrena’s, Ms Aubenas’s situation is “relatively simple”, an opinion not shared by Ms Aubenas’s mother:
The mother of a French journalist held captive in Iraq has lashed out against squabbling between France’s government departments trying to have her freed (emphasis mine)
“I want Florence to be freed and I don’t want her to become hostage in the war of factions, power, egos and secrets, and squabbling between services. I’m outraged, really.”
She said the videotape showing her daughter appealing for Mr Julia’s help was “incomprehensible.”
“It’s clear that it is not she who is talking, she is speaking under coercion,” she said.
On Friday, she met an Iraqi ministerial delegation in the Brussels senate, who said they thought the captors were Saddam Hussein sympathisers.
“We believe that those who captured Florence are Saddamists and that they have contacts in France,” said Iraqi Human Rights Minister, Bakhtiar Amin.
This is different from prior information released on the case. Since there has been no indication of who the kidnappers might be, as this London Times article states,
Until last week the Government was indicating that it believed that ordinary criminals rather than an organised terrorist group had seized Mme Aubenas and her translator.
To further add to the confusion, France2 news stated on Thursday that Ms Aubenas’s translator Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, who is also missing, had previously worked for former French hostages Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were released last December 22. After their release Chesnot and Malbrunot were very angry at the Julia intervention,
When Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, the two other French journalists held hostage, were released in December after three months in captivity, they blamed M Julia for delaying their freedom with a hamfisted intervention
No matter the bickering, anyone watching the video where Ms Aubenas pleaded for her life knows that time’s running out.
(cross-posted at Blogger News Network)