VARIOUS: Calls for BBC journalist Alan Johnston's release after video is posted on Web site
- Title: VARIOUS: Calls for BBC journalist Alan Johnston's release after video is posted on Web site
- Date: 2nd June 2007
- Summary: (W3) GAZA CITY, GAZA (JUNE 1, 2007) (REUTERS) PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER ISMAIL HANIYEH WALKING TO MICROPHONE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER ISMAIL HANIYEH SAYING: "We are renewing our demand to the men who captured, the abductors of, the British journalist, to protect him and not to harm his life and to immediately release the journalist. This action does not serve Islam, does not serve the Palestinian cause, and does not serve those who captured him." HANIYEH IN CROWD OUTSIDE MOSQUE
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: Palestinian prime minister and Britain's prime minister-in-waiting renew calls for the release of kidnapped journalist Alan Johnston after video of the BBC reporter is posted on an Islamist Web site. In the video, Johnston says his captors have treated him well but the date it was recorded is unknown. Kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston said he was in good health and being treated well in a video released on Friday (June 1), the first since militants abducted him in the Palestinian enclave more than 11 weeks ago.
It was the clearest evidence yet that he was alive following his March 12 abduction, although it was not clear when the v taping took place for the video, in which the British reporter criticised Israel as well as Britain's policy towards the Muslim world.
"My captors have treated me very well," he said on the video posted on an Islamist Web site by a group called the Army of Islam which said last month it had kidnapped him.
"They have fed me well. There has been no violence towards me at all and I'm in good health," said Johnston, wearing a baggy red sweater and sitting in front of a dark grey background.
The video, posted on a Web site often used by al Qaeda, begins with a voice reciting a verse from the Koran calling for Muslims to fight foreign "infidels".
The tape was interrupted as he started addressing his family. It was again interrupted as Johnston was about to list the captors' demands. There followed part of an audio tape from the Army of Islam, issued on May 9, demanding the release of Abu Qatada and other Muslims in Britain and "infidel" states.
Abu Qatada is described by the British government as a "significant international terrorist" with suspected close links to al Qaeda. He is detained but has not faced trial.
Johnston, who turned 45 in captivity last month, is the only Western correspondent based full time in the Gaza Strip.
None of several foreigners seized in Gaza has been harmed. None has been held so long, with most freed within days.
Jon Williams, the world editor of BBC News said the BBC was looking at the video very carefully.
"We have been working very closely with Alan's family in the past 81 days," Williams, who works in the BBC's London office, told reporters.
"We have kept them informed at developments and involved throughout. This is a highly distressing time for them and for Alan's friends and his colleagues. Today I repeat our call for Alan's immediate release," he added.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas also called for Johnston's release.
"We are renewing our demand to the men who captured, the abductors of, the British journalist, to protect him and not to harm his life and to immediately release the journalist," Haniyeh said after attending Friday prayers in Gaza.
"This action does not serve Islam, does not serve the Palestinian cause, and does not serve those who captured him, " Haniyeh said.
British prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown also called on Johnston's captors to release him.
Speaking in his home town of Kirkcaldy, Scotland, he said the video was being urgently investigated.
"I call upon those people that are holding Mr Johnston to release him as a matter of urgency. They are not serving this cause by detaining him in this unfair and unjust way," Brown said.
The parents of missing BBC journalist Alan Johnston, Margaret and Graham attended their local church in Lochgoilhead, Scotland, after the video of their son was posted on a Web site.
Following a short vigil at the church for their son, which have been held daily for the past few weeks, Margaret Johnston said: "It was just very, very good to see him looking as well as he did, and sounding good as well."
She added: "Just wish I'd known, we'd knew, when it had been taken, that we'd know that is how he is now."
Graham Johnston said: "It's the first indication we have had that he's okay. For all 81 days or whatever it is we keep wondering how is he, how is he being treated? So yes, this has buoyed us up, very much so."
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