National

Goto's mother alleges government inaction led to son's death at hands of Islamic State

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The mother of journalist Kenji Goto, who was executed by the Islamic State group in January, has said her son died because of government inaction, contradicting officials’ assertions the crisis was handled appropriately.

In a statement Friday, Junko Ishido said she was “overcome with anger” upon reading a report released the previous day by a government panel that evaluated the government’s response to the hostage crisis, in which her son and another Japanese national were killed.

The report concluded that Tokyo’s handling of the crisis had been appropriate. No decision it made can be considered “misguided enough to have undermined the possibility of the captives’ safe returns,” the 45-page assessment said.

The hostage standoff had been underway for some time but erupted into a public crisis in mid-January after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on a tour of the Middle East, pledged about $200 million in nonmilitary assistance for countries fighting the extremist group. Islamic State militants paraded Goto and his fellow captive, self-styled security contractor Haruna Yukawa, on video and issued a string of demands before eventually beheading them.

Ishido was unsparing in her criticism.

“The Japanese government didn’t make due efforts to save my son. It was simply remiss in its duties,” her statement said. “I believe my son died a tragic death because the government did nothing. I demand that it conduct a thorough soul-searching.”

Ishido’s statement was released ahead of an inaugural Freedom of the Press Awards ceremony in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Friday night.

Goto was one of the award winners under the category of “Fallen Hero,” which recognizes journalists killed in action. Ishido was unable to be present because of fatigue, according to freelance journalist Minoru Tanaka, who received the letter from Ishido before the event.

In her statement, Ishido also challenged the report’s assertion that Abe was right to pledge the $200 million in assistance. It said a speech Abe made reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to support Middle East countries battling terrorism.

Ishido slammed this, saying she believes Abe’s announcement was exactly what provoked the Islamic State into killing her son.

“I believe the speech was a huge problem,” she said.

Ishido likewise contradicted Tokyo’s assertion that it kept the families of the captives fully in the loop as the crisis played out.

“The government didn’t phone me once. I haven’t received a word from them till today,” Ishido said.

She added that she was angry the report made it sound as if Goto’s wife was the only family member who mattered, with no mention of Ishido herself.

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