Aubenas interpreter 'could have escaped'

17th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - Hussein Hanun, the Iraqi interpreter freed at the weekend by hostage-takers in Iraq along with French journalist Florence Aubenas, on Thursday thanked France for what it had done to free the two of them, as he arrived in Paris with his wife and a son.

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - Hussein Hanun, the Iraqi interpreter freed at the weekend by hostage-takers in Iraq along with French journalist Florence Aubenas, on Thursday thanked France for what it had done to free the two of them, as he arrived in Paris with his wife and a son.  

Hanun and Aubenas were released by their captors on Saturday after 157 days in captivity.  

Aubenas, who was flown back to France immediately after her release, is to put up the Hanun family while they are in France.  

"For me France is like a second home, I thank the French people for what they did for me and Florence," Hanun told the press with Aubenas and her employer Liberation newspaper chief Serge July by his side.  

He thanked the French government, French security forces and the French embassy in Baghdad for their work to win the release of the two.  

Hanun said he could have escaped twice when Aubenas was kidnapped.  

"The door was open and...bye, bye. But I could not abandon Florence," he said.  

Aubenas had said she became only aware 10 days before their release that Hanun was detained alongside her in a cellar. But Hanun said he knew she was there.  

"We were blindfolded, we couldn't see each other but I felt that Florence was there, I could not speak with her," he said.  

"The first time I spoke with Florence and she spoke to me" was at the end of May, he added.  

Hanun said he did not know whether other hostages were held with them.  

Aubenas would not confirm Tuesday that former Romanian hostages had also been kept alongside them, as claimed by the Romanians.  

She said the question was delicate in terms of security.  

Romanian Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu had said in an interview on French television Tuesday that his country's secret services had helped free the French journalist from Iraq.  

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has paid tribute to Romania for its role in ending the hostages' ordeal.  

Hanun said they had been unable to speak to their guards.  

"We were hostages. They were giving orders, we obeyed," he said.  

Hanun was to rest in France for a few days before making a decision about what to do next.  

"It's not obvious for me to stay in Iraq," he said, adding that he would "not advise journalists to go to Iraq."  

Villepin on Thursday also warned reporters of the risks involved in covering events in the war-torn country where "a real hostage market is developing". 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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