Accessibility links

French Journalist Says Former Taleban Captors Treated Him Well - 2001-11-03


Taleban officials in Afghanistan have released French news reporter Michel Peyrard after holding him for almost one month. Mr. Peyrard said his captors treated him well, despite uncertainty about whether he might be tried as a spy.

In a telephone interview with France-Info radio from Peshawar, Pakistan, shortly after his release Saturday, Mr. Peyrard said he felt well.

Mr. Peyrard told the French radio station he did not expect to be freed so quickly. Earlier Saturday, he said he had heard that an Afghan judge might press spying charges against him.

Mr. Peyrard is a veteran war correspondent for Paris Match magazine. He was captured October 9, shortly after sneaking across the Pakistan border -just two days after the United States launched its first strikes against the Taleban.

Mr. Peyrard was wearing the traditional, cover-all burqua of Afghan women and was carrying a satellite telephone and computer equipment. He was initially accused of being a spy - a charge that carries a possible death sentence in Afghanistan.

Paris Match, which dispatched an editor to Islamabad, announced it had convinced the Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan that Peyrard was a journalist.

But late last month, the Paris-based advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, said it had obtained information that Mr. Peyrard might be tried as a spy after all.

Mr. Peyrard told France-Info radio Saturday that information about whether he would be tried or released changed daily. But generally, he said, his Taleban captors had treated him well. Mr. Peyrard said he was even allowed to report around the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, where he had been held.

Mr. Peyrard said most of the town's residents fled, following American strikes on Jalalabad. But last Thursday, he said, many had returned. He described his Taleban captors as serene, and confident they had defeated the Americans.

French and Pakistani diplomats have worked behind the scenes for Mr. Peyrard's release. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine pressed the issue Friday, during a visit to Islamabad.

France's ambassador to Pakistan, Yannick Gerard, met the reporter Saturday as he crossed the Afghan border.

Last month, the Taleban also released British reporter Yvonne Ridley after detaining her for 10 days. But Taleban militia are still holding a Japanese reporter and two Pakistani journalists who accompanied Mr. Peyrard, according to Robert Menard, head of Reporters Without Borders.

Mr. Menard said Mr. Peyrard's release was good news. Still better, he said, was news that other reporters might be freed. Mr. Peyrard said his Taleban captors had promised to release the two Pakistani reporters on Sunday. He said he hoped they would keep their word.

XS
SM
MD
LG