Japanese Journalist Released After More than Three Years of Captivity in Syria

Japanese authorities are preparing the repatriation of Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, released after more than three years of captivity in Syria, said the Japanese government, which has moved a team to the place where the reporter is in custody in southern Turkey.

Yasuda, a 44-year-old freelance journalist, was freed by Turkish security forces and is in an immigration center, where officials from the Japanese legation in Ankara have been displaced, said the spokesman for the Japanese Executive, Yoshihide Suga.

According to the Japanese spokesman, the Japanese authorities have not been informed “that he has any health problem”, a factor that will be decisive to undertake his repatriation to the Asian country.

Tonight, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK released images, provided by official sources, in which Yasuda appears for the first time since his release, in an unspecified place in Turkey.

In the recording, the Japanese journalist, in a medium shot, with a beard and wearing a dark T-shirt, identifies himself in English by name and briefly states that he has been held captive in Syria but was now safe in Turkey.
The Foreign Minister of Japan, Taro Kono, told reporters that Yasuda is “relatively well” in terms of their health and medical teams are evaluating him.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said for his part that the efforts and preparations are being made for Yasuda to return to the country “as soon as possible”.

“I want to see it soon, just that,” said the father of the reporter, 78-year-old Hideaki Yasuda, speaking to the local press from his home in Iruma, northwest of Tokyo.

Drying his tears with a handkerchief, his wife Sachiko, 75, said he prayed “every day” for the release of his son and showed before the cameras some of the more than 10,000 stars and paper cranes he has made in these years, a traditional Japanese way of asking for wishes.

The journalist’s parents learned of the news after receiving a call from their daughter-in-law asking them to turn on the television.

Yasuda’s wife, a singer named Myu, had made a public appeal for her release last August at a press conference in Tokyo, the first since her husband’s disappearance and which came after several videos and videos were published in previous months. photographs of the reporter asking for help.

Yasuda was kidnapped in June 2015 by an armed group in an area controlled by the Al Nusra Front hours after entering Syrian territory from Turkey with the aim of covering several pieces of information, including the murder of his Japanese colleague Kenji Goto at the hands of the terrorist group Islamic State (EI).
The Al Nusra Front, a former Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, is the same group that held Spanish journalists Antonio Pampliega, José Manuel López and Ángel Sastre, held hostage in Aleppo (Syria) for ten months, released in May 2016.

The Japanese Executive was notified of the release of Yasuda on Tuesday by Qatar, which announced the release of a Japanese citizen who did not have identification and said they were waiting for Tokyo to confirm his identity.

Abe showed his “relief” for resolving the case after “all the efforts made by the Government” and expressed his gratitude to Qatar and Turkey “for their solidarity and cooperation.”

According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, the Japanese journalist had been held captive in the western Syrian province of Idlib and was handed over by his captors four days ago, but the announcement was set taking into account the “political calendar”.

The NGO also indicated that Yasuda’s release came in exchange for a ransom, although the Japanese spokesman denied that Tokyo or Doha had paid any sum or that the Japanese authorities had been in direct contact with the kidnappers.

Always according to the Syrian Observatory, the deal “was carried out under Qatari-Turkish patronage and several people mediated to obtain large sums of money in exchange for their release, despite the refusal of Japan to pay such sums of money out of fear to be considered ‘a sympathizer of terrorist organizations’ “.

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