Aubenas 'was held with Romanians' says Barnier

13th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 13 (AFP) - Michel Barnier, France's foreign minister up to a government reshuffle two weeks ago, confirmed Monday that freed French correspondent Florence Aubenas was held hostage with three recently released Romanian journalists in Iraq.

PARIS, June 13 (AFP) - Michel Barnier, France's foreign minister up to a government reshuffle two weeks ago, confirmed Monday that freed French correspondent Florence Aubenas was held hostage with three recently released Romanian journalists in Iraq.  

"I can confirm that, seeing as one of those hostages talked about it yesterday (Sunday) afternoon," he told radio station RMC.  

"That was reported to us immediately after their release and we kept that information to ourselves, naturally. They had been detained together in the same place," he said.  

The Romanian journalists, television reporter Marie-Jeanne Ion, newspaper reporter Eduard Ohanesian and cameraman Sorin Miscoci, were seized on March 28 and freed on May 22.  

They had kept silent about the details of their release until Sunday because of Romanian intelligence service fears that any account might jeopardise the lives of Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter.  

Ion told Romania's Realitatea TV on Sunday: "We are incredibly happy that she (Aubenas) has been freed, because we were held in the same place for almost a month and a half, from the first of April."  

"Florence was remarkable throughout. She constantly encouraged us. She is amazingly strong. She never allowed us to give up hope that we will be released."  

But doubt was thrown on Ion's comments when Aubenas, freed and back in France, denied she had been kept with the Romanians.  

The Romanian press speculated that the French journalist had not been informed about the release of the Romanians and was trying to protect them by saying she was not with them.  

Barnier, on the radio, said Aubenas and the Romanians had indeed been in the same basement, but said he did not know in what circumstances.  

"Was it the same group holding different hostages? Was it different groups who used the same place as a guarded detention area? I can't say, but we are verifying that information."  

Aubenas herself was to give a media conference about her experiences in captivity on Tuesday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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