Captives’ families press on despite exhaustion

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Despite visible exhaustion due to lack of sleep and anxiety, relatives of the three Japanese taken hostage last week in Iraq continued their desperate appeal Tuesday for the release of their loved ones.

The family members were interviewed Tuesday by BBC and delivered “a very simple human appeal” that was to be aired on TV in English and on radio in Arabic worldwide, according to a BBC correspondent who interviewed them.

They also submitted letters the same day to the ruling and opposition parties, urging them to push the government to “concede to the demands of the captors.” They also sought a meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

With no information on the safety and whereabouts of the hostages six days after their kidnapping was reported Thursday, the eight family members were suffering serious physical and mental fatigue, said supporters and politicians who met them Tuesday.

The kidnappers had threatened to kill the hostages Sunday evening unless Japan decides to withdraw its troops from Iraq. They released a statement via Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera on Sunday morning that they would release the Japanese hostages within 24 hours. As of Tuesday evening, however, the captives’ fate remained unknown.

Shuichi Takato, brother Nahoko Takato, 34, visited a hospital Tuesday afternoon where he was put on a drip due to extreme fatigue and lack of sleep, he later told reporters.

Japanese public opinion has been split over the dispatch of Self-Defense Force troops to Iraq on a humanitarian aid mission.

The eight family members have reportedly been criticized and harassed due to their demand that the SDF troops be withdrawn.

“Whatever we are told, I have no word to return,” said Ayako Inoue, Takato’s sister, when asked how she felt about the negative response from the public.

“Rather than arguing the pros and cons of the SDF dispatch, we ask you to pay utmost respect for human lives,” said Takashi Imai, father of Noriaki Imai, 18.