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2006-03-23

Three Kidnapped Peace Activists Freed in Baghdad

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The three remaining members of the Christian Peacemakers Team have been freed in Iraq after being held as hostages for almost four months. They were seized last November along with the U.S. peace activist Tom Fox whose body was found in Baghdad two weeks ago. We speak with the co-director of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Canada. [includes rush transcript]

In Iraq, three members of the Christian Peacemakers Team have been freed after being held as hostages for almost four months. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced the men had been rescued earlier today. The exact circumstances of their release remains unclear. According to a statement from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, no one was hurt in the rescue. The rescued men are Norman Kember of Britain, and James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, both of Canada. Across the globe, families and friends of the men have been rejoicing.

The men were seized in Baghdad last November along with the U.S. peace activist Tom Fox whose body was found in Baghdad two weeks ago. He had been shot and his body was dumped on a Baghdad street. The peace activists are all members of the humanitarian group The Christian Peacemaker Teams which has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees and working with the families of prisoners. The CPT were the first to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the media revealed what was happening at Abu Ghraib.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Canada to the co-director of the Christian Peacemaker Team, Doug Pritchard. Welcome to Democracy Now! Doug, are you with us?

DOUG PRITCHARD: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about what you know at this point about the freeing of the three members of the Christian Peacemaker Team?

DOUG IRELAND: We don’t have a lot of details to hand, ourselves. Our remaining team in Baghdad is actually meeting with the released men, as we speak. And I hope to hear more from them later today. What we have heard is that there was no violence in securing their release. No shots were fired. And, in fact, there were no captors present with our three men, as coalition forces arrived. So we’re very grateful that there was no loss of life or injury in securing this release.

AMY GOODMAN: What we heard, the news reports we heard today, that Britain is saying it was a multinational force that moved in. Was it true you heard that they were led by one of the people who were holding them captive?

DOUG PRITCHARD: We have heard those reports, but we don’t have any confirmation.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the response of the families?

DOUG PRITCHARD: Certainly, we, as their colleagues, are delighted. We know their families are delighted. But it is tempered, for all of us, by the loss of Tom Fox. We had hoped for a joyful reunion of all four of our men with their families, so today is somewhat bittersweet. But it is certainly a time to celebrate this release, as we also mourn the loss of Tom.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much for being with us. We also understand from the reports that Norman Kember might be in better shape — the oldest of the three — than the other two men who are in hospital. Have they been released from the hospital?

DOUG PRITCHARD: Yes, they have. And we were told that—

AMY GOODMAN: James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden.

DOUG PRITCHARD: Yes, that they were just in for check-ups and that they are remarkably well, and they’re now having lunch on the grounds of the British embassy with our other Baghdad teammates.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you for being with us.

DOUG PRITCHARD: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Doug Pritchard, co-director of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Canada.

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