Arabic version

Campaign to free Florence Aubenas
and Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi

Florence Aubenas Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi

Florence Aubenas, 43, a senior reporter for the French daily paper Libération, and her Iraqi interpreter Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi disappeared on 5 January 2005.  They were last seen leaving their hotel in Baghdad.

Read the latest news in Libération.

Developments since Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi vanished (from Agence France-Presse, Reuters and Associated Press) .

2 June - 14:49 : Sheikh Fadlallah calls for Florence’s release
After meeting a Reporters Without Borders delegation led by the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, leading Shiite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah issues a statement calling for Florence Aubenas’s release. “As a Muslim, I energetically condemn the kidnapping of the journalist Florence Aubenas, which I consider to be a barbaric crime because it attacks a profession with the duty to inform,” Fadlallah said. The statement added: “These kidnappings also harm the image of Islam and the Iraqis, by presenting them as barbaric people.” Florence and her Iraqi guide, Hussein Hanoun, are today spending their 148th day in captivity.

25 May - 10.18: Jean-Pierre Raffarin says he has “news” about the hostages
The Prime minister, questioned on France’s LCI news channel on 25 May about the information the intelligence services have about the hostages, replies, “We have news that I cannot give you in the interest of the lives of the hostages”.

23 May - 13.55: Laurent Joffrin of the Nouvel Observateur, describes the situation as “possibly similar to the hostages in Lebanon”.
Laurent Joffrin, news editor of the Nouvel Observateur, says at the end of an editorial management meeting, “It is almost impossible to get reliable information because all the negotiations are, of course, secret. We have only had a few indications about the instigator of the kidnapping who is quite possibly not in Iraq. Florence and Hussein’s plight is possibly similar to that of the hostages in Lebanon, for whom no demands were made until four and a half months after they were abducted.” Joffrin says that he does not believe the release of the three Romanian journalists should give rise to too much optimism about the outcome for the Libération journalist. "We are left with more questions than reassurance. It rather leads us to suppose that the case of Florence and Hussein Hussein is different. Until now there has not been any ransom demand and we have not had any news for a very long time,” Joffrin stresses.

23 May - 13.55: The case is "less straight forward” than that of the Romanian journalists, says Serge July
Serge July says after an editorial management meeting at the offices of the Nouvel Observateur the day after the release of the Romanian hostages, that the kidnapping of Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun was “less straight forward”. He also contrasts it with the case of French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were freed on 21 December after 124 days of captivity in Iraq. "It is not a known rebel group as it was in the Chesnot-Malbrunot case,” he tells RTL. “I think the authorities are having a huge problem finding out who the instigators are. It is not because our services are less efficient than others. France is in a delicate situation in Iraq. It is a country in which we have few friends. It is harder for France to handle hostage issues than it is for countries that are part of the coalition.”

23 May - 11.06: Release of Romanian hostages shows one should never give up hope, says Josep Borrell
President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, hails the release of the Romanian hostages in a 23 May statement. “The happy resolution of the kidnapping” of Marie-Jeanne Ion, Sorin Dumitru Miscoci and Eduard Ovidiu Ohanesian "shows that one should never give up hope. This release proves yet again that we must continue the battle so that Florence Aubenas and her translator and guide Hussein Hanoun are also released as quickly as possible”, he says, adding “The kidnappers must know that silence and indifference will not triumph.”

23 May - 10.58: Florence and Hussein’s support committee believes there is “a ray of hope"
The support committee says in a statement on 23 May that the release of the three Romanian hostages has brought a “ray of hope” about the outcome for Florence and Hussein, adding that they share “with all their hearts in the joy of the friends and family of the Romanian journalists kidnapped 55 days ago in Iraq” and released on 22 May. The committee wonders why the ordeal of Florence and Hussein "has not ended so speedily” since “every extra day of captivity in Iraq is one more day of psychological and physical suffering for the two hostages”.

22 May - 18.54: Michel Barnier "happy" for the Romanians, is working “round the clock” for Florence Aubenas
"We are very sincerely happy about the release of the three Romanian journalists and their Iraqi guide. It is a joy for their families and for the Romanian authorities, and we share that joy with them” says Michel Barnier in a 22 May, statement. “This happy outcome encourages us to persist in our efforts for the release of Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun. As I have said many times, we are working for this objective and we will continue to work round the clock for the release of our two hostages,” the foreign minister concludes.

22 May - 14.16: Release of Romanian journalists is “an encouraging sign” for Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders on 22 May hails the release of the journalists and their guide as “excellent news” and a good sign for the other hostages. "We are also interpreting this news as an encouraging sign for French journalist Florence Aubenas of Libération and her Iraqi guide Hussein Hanoun. We must seize this moment to step up our efforts in support of their release", it says in a statement.

21 May - 22.21: Michel Barnier: "The situation is very difficult” but we remain optimistic about getting them out”
France’s foreign minister, Michel Barnier, speaking in Mulhouse on 21 May during a debate on the referendum on the European Constitution, says, “We remain optimistic about getting them out as we managed to for Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot. The situation is very difficult in Iraq. Despite this, we are continuing to work on it. On my return to Paris, I will meet with my cabinet as I do every day” for Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun.

18 May - 15:37 : French media executives to hold another meeting on hostages
French media executives decide to meet on 23 May at Le Nouvel Observateur to discuss the status of the journalists held hostage in Iraq. This will be on the eve of the 140th day in captivity for Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun. They will consider ways to keep the solidarity movement going and Libération director Serge July will report back on his recent trip to the Jordanian capital of Amman with Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard to meet with Arab news media. This will be the fifth time they have met since the abduction of Florence and Hussein on 5 January to discuss what can be done for them and how to work in Iraq. The previous meetings were on 24 January at Libération, 7 February at CAPE, 7 March at France Télévisions and 11 April at TF1. They have also met three times with Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin at his official residence, on 16 February, 17 March et 3 May.

> See complete timeline

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