Home Dutch News Arjan Erkel: kidnap answers can wait

Arjan Erkel: kidnap answers can wait

Published on 04/05/2004

4 May 2004

AMSTERDAM — With many questions still unanswered, freed Dutch hostage Arjan Erkel said on Monday night that he had often felt abandoned during his 20-month ordeal, but did not have an urgent need to investigate the background of his kidnapping.

Freed by his as yet unidentified kidnappers on 11 April, the former Dutch relief aid worker said he felt that he’d been left to his own fate because he was unaware of attempts being made in the Netherlands and Russia to free him.

Speaking on current affairs television programme Nova, Erkel also said that he had not yet decided whether he would return to work with the relief organisation Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG), known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

“I don’t know that yet, but the work still appeals to me enormously,” the 34-year-old said in his first comprehensive television interview since his release last month.

But Erkel — who was head of the relief mission for AzG in the Russian republic Dagestan when he was kidnapped at gunpoint in the capital Makhachkala in August 2002 — definitely does not want to return to Dagestan, he said.

Erkel also said that he has not yet investigated the background of his kidnapping. He admitted he did not wish to know much of the details just yet and is instead happy to simply enjoy life. “I live in the present. The future will come later. I hope that it will be just as fun as it was earlier,” he said.

But he did not rule out the possibility of writing a book about his kidnapping and thus the necessity of having to investigate the circumstances around the case. He is also considering entering politics, but first wants to relax and rest.

Erkel said he did not know if his kidnapping was purely about obtaining a ransom or whether his release could have been accelerated, news agency ANP reported.

“When you ask if everything went well; the answer as far as I’m concerned, is ‘no’. I heard nothing different then the fact it was about money and that after a couple of months I would be free again. But that took increasingly longer. But I don’t know what went wrong. It could easily have been the (fault of the) kidnappers or Artsen zonder Grenzen.”

At the time of his disappearance, the Russian authorities blamed gangsters for the kidnapping, but MSF later accused Dagestani and Russian officials of complicity in his abduction.

It has also been alleged that the abduction was politically-motivated and that Erkel might have been taken on the orders of security officials who wrongly suspected him of spying for the Americans. The Russian Navy was holding a high-profile exercise in the area at the time.

After his release, AzG confirmed it hired a group of former Russian KGB agents in mid-2003 to negotiate the release of Erkel.

He was eventually left at a pre-arranged spot by his kidnappers and picked up by a couple of the former KGB agents, but both AzG and the former KGB agents deny a ransom was paid. The motive of the kidnapping thus remains unclear.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news