National

'Free Kenji' rally held outside prime minister's office

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

With candles, placards and banners in their hands, about 100 people turned up in front of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office in Tokyo on Wednesday to make an emergency plea for the release of a Japanese hostage taken captive by the Islamic State group before a 24-hour deadline ran out later in the evening.

The rally, organized by nongovernmental organization Peace Boat, aimed to make an urgent appeal to the governments of Japan and Jordan to engage in negotiations with the Islamic State group for the release of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist the militants have threatened to execute.

Some held placards that said “Free Kenji!” in English and in Arabic. Others held “I am Kenji” signs.

“Islamic State militants are acting cruelly by using the Internet. . . . Then, I thought I can show them (through the Internet) that we Japanese will never overlook what they do (to hostages),” said Akira Kawasaki, a member of Peace Boat’s executive committee.

“Goto’s mother said he is not an enemy of the Islamic State, and I agree with her. . . . We never wish to kill each other nor to become enemies,” he added. “We just want a peaceful relationship.”

Kawasaki said he thought he did not have much time left to take action after watching the video latest video message allegedly posted online by the Islamic State group.

“With the ‘I am Kenji’ message, we hope to tell the Islamic State group that hurting Goto directly means hurting us Japanese,” Kawasaki said.

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