Journalist kidnapped in Yemen “very, very, very frightened”

RNW archive

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A video has gone online in which kidnapped Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her partner appeal for help, saying they may be shot within ten days. Based in Sana’a, Ms Spiegel is a regular correspondent for RNW. She and Boudewijn Berendsen were taken from their home in the capital in the second week of June.

It’s clear from the video that there has been contact with the Dutch authorities over a ransom demand, with Spiegel saying: ‘Early on we spoke to the ambassador and we have explained what the conditions are to get us out. Nothing has happened so far. There has been no movement.’

“Dead in ten days”
The kidnappers have now given a ten-day ultimatum for further negotiations and Berendsen adds: "We are very, very, very frightened. A solution has to be found." The video ends with Ms Spiegel in tears saying: “Family, media, fellow Dutchmen, do something. We will be here forever if we are not dead in ten days. So, everyone do something, do something.”

Foreign minister Frans Timmermans said on his Facebook page that kidnapping cases always have ‘our full attention’, but stressed that public discussion about such situations ‘seldom or never helps bring about a good solution.’

Tape for sale
An anonymous user calling himself Desert Lion put the video online on July 13. RNW’s Arab desk has talked to Yemeni journalist Ahmad Al-zurqa who re-published it on his Facebook page with a strong expression of support for the couple. He told us that the kidnappers initially tried to sell the tape to an Arab satellite TV station. After being turned down they posted it on YouTube and a link was sent yesterday to various Arab journalists from an anonymous source.
Mr Al-Zurqa believes the abductors are motivated by profit – as is usually the case with kidnappings in Yemen – and the video is an attempt to pressure both the Dutch and Yemeni authorities to pay a ransom.

Local support

The Yemeni Journalist Syndicate (YSI) has condemned the kidnapping and held two demonstrations calling on the security forces to ensure the couple are released, they have also launched an on-line petition.