Video of BBC’s reporter released

122.jpgOn Friday, June 1, the first video of BBC reporter Alan Johnston was released, since he was kidnapped 80 days ago. Palestinian government and his family made pleas for his immediate release. “First of all, my captors have treated me very well,” said a pale Johnston, wearing a red sweatshirt and seated before a black backdrop.

 

“They’ve fed me well, there’s been no violence towards me at all and I’m in good health,” he added. Johnston, the only Western journalist based permanently in Gaza City, was abducted at gunpoint on March 12. The Army of Islam, which has claimed his abduction, demands the release of Palestinian-born Abu Qatada.

 

Abu Qatada was arrested in Britain in August 2005 as part of a crackdown that followed the 7/7 terrorist London bombings, which is mainly believed to be a propaganda. Johnston, by far the longest-held Westerner in the increasingly dangerous Gaza Strip, spoke about the sufferings of the Palestinian people.

 

“In three years here in the Palestinian territories, I witnessed the huge suffering of the Palestinian people and my message is that this suffering is continuing and it is unacceptable,” he added. “People are killed on a daily basis. Economic suffering is terrible, especially here in Gaza where there… (is) absolute despair after 40 years of Israeli occupation, which is being supported by the West.”

 

The prize-winning British journalist, who marked his 45th birthday in captivity, also criticized western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We British are completely to blame, along with the Americans, for the situation in Iraq, and the British are the main force in Afghanistan, causing all the trouble to ordinary simple Afghans, who simply want to live.”

There was no indication as to when the relatively sophisticated Internet video was made. A copy of his British passport was also shown in the tape.

 

The video was a chance for many parties to renew calls for his immediately release. “We are renewing our demands of the men, the abductors of the British journalist, to protect him and not to harm his life and to immediately release the journalist,” Premier Ishmael Haniyeh said after Friday prayers in Gaza City.

 

“This is an action that does not serve Islam, does not serve the Palestinian cause, and does not serve those who have abducted him.” Speaking from South Africa, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his government was working relentlessly to secure Johnston’s freedom. “We are doing everything possible that we can to secure his release.”

 

Johnston’s family welcomed the first pictures of the captive journalist, but admitted they were difficult to watch. “We are very pleased to see Alan and to hear him say that he is not being ill-treated, although it is clearly distressing for us to see him in these circumstances,” said his parents Graham and Margaret. The parents said they were awaiting more news.

 

“We’re being kept fully informed and involved by the BBC, as we have been since the day Alan was abducted.”We’re grateful to everyone who’s been supporting us and we hope that he’ll be released very soon.” The journalist’s plight has sparked solidarity rallies and messages of support from all over the world.

 

An online petition calling for his release has been signed by more than 130,000 people. Palestinian reporters have staged several strikes to protest his abduction.

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