Family shocked at condition of Sooden 29 January
The family of New Zealand hostage Harmeet Sooden,
who is being held in Iraq, say they are shocked at his
condition in the latest video footage.
Mr Sooden, 32, a Canadian citizen who
lived and studied in New Zealand, was shown yesterday on a
video broadcast on Al Jazeera television along with three
other peace activists captured more than two months ago.
Mr Sooden's brother-in-law Mark Brewer
told Radio New Zealand it was a relief for the family to see
the images after such a long period of time but Mr Sooden's
appearance had changed considerably.
The video was the first news of the
hostages since December 7, when their captors, the Swords of
Truth group, said they would be killed on December 10 unless
Iraqi prisoners in American and Iraqi prisons were released.
"He looks pretty dishevelled and I think
he's lost a bit of weight and he's obviously looking very
tired so you know for us to see someone we care about in that
situation is very difficult," Mr Brewer said.
The family was waiting to get an unedited
copy of the tape from Iraq in the hope of discovering more of
about Mr Sooden's condition.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr
Sooden's family would be delighted that the video shown today,
which was dated January 21, showed that he and his colleagues
were still alive.
"Harmeet's family and the families of the
three other hostages with him have had a long and worrying
delay since they last heard news of their loved ones," Miss
"The New Zealand Government continues to
urge the captors of Harmeet and his friends to release them.
All four were on a peaceful mission to Iraq, and were
motivated purely by a desire to help the Iraqi people."
Mr Sooden, Briton Norman Kember, American
Tom Fox and Canadian James Loney were kidnapped on November 26
in Baghdad, where they were working with a Christian peace
organisation, Christian Peacemaker Teams.
The previously unknown Swords of Truth
had claimed the quartet were spies but friends and several
groups, both Muslim and Christian, have insisted they were
friends of the Iraqi people and against the American-led
presence in Iraq.
Diplomatic efforts to free Mr Sooden have
been led by the Canadian government, which Miss Clark said New
Zealand was doing its best to support.
"Our government will continue to liaise
closely with the government of Canada and other governments to
support their efforts to secure the release of Harmeet and his
friends," she said.
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