There have been emotional scenes in Paris following the return of two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq four months ago. Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot received a heroes’ welcome as they stepped off the plane and walked into the arms of their families and well-wishers. But soon afterwards they entered into a debate on whether the government paid a ransom for their release and why France’s traditional pro-Arab policies failed to secure their freedom earlier.
Paris says the captors never asked for a ransom. “We played the “French journalists card”, said Malbrunot. “We stressed to our captors that we were not Americans and France had not supported the US led war in Iraq and was against the occupation”, he added.
The pair went on to say that they were not badly treated. Neither were they beaten nor forced to endure mock executions. But Malbrunot launched an attack on a French politician who visited Baghdad in September saying he would free the hostages. “This was gambling with the lives of two compatriots and I was shocked”, he said. He described the politician’s action as contemptible. More than 120 foreigners have been taken hostage in Iraq since April, of whom more than sixty have been killed.