National

Hostage Jumpei Yasuda’s wife speaks of hope for his release in first public appearance since his detention

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

The wife of Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance journalist who went missing in Syria three years ago and is believed to be held captive by local militants, said Tuesday she hopes for further action by the government to rescue her husband, following the recent release of a hostage video believed to show Yasuda.

At a news conference on Tuesday, where she appeared in public for the first time since his disappearance, his wife, a singer who goes by the name Myu, said that she was “grateful for all of the help provided by the government so far,” and also expressed “her deepest apologies to the public for the trouble” that had been caused by her husband’s captivity.

The singer repeatedly said how much she appreciated the government’s help in trying to rescue her husband, but added that “the Japanese government holds the key to the situation.” She also said she believed that the government would take action and had high hopes.

The Foreign Ministry has regular calls with her at least once a week, but details of Yasuda’s situation and information regarding the conditions for his release have not been shared with her, Myu confirmed.

“I have endured the last three years without any news of my husband’s release, and maintained my silence … but when I saw the footage of my husband last month, I felt how dire his situation is,” she said while holding back tears as she explained her decision to publicly address the hostage situation.

“My message for the captors is that I want my husband back safely as soon as possible … I understand that the captors aren’t evil people at heart, but rather have been influenced by regional tensions,” she added.

Myu confirmed that she does believe the man in the footage is her husband, but could not understand why he claimed that he was a South Korean national when, as far as she knows, he is Japanese.

Makoto Iwai, a lawyer, also announced at the conference that a newly established group called “Yasuda Jumpei wo Sukuu Kai” will be lobbying for Yasuda’s release. No immediate campaign activities are planned for the group just yet, but he said that he hoped to raise public awareness of Yasuda’s captivity and his wife’s plight through Tuesday’s news conference. He added that he also hoped the government would continue their efforts to secure Yasuda’s safety.

A short clip of a man who is presumably Yasuda was released last Tuesday, showing him in an orange jumpsuit and kneeling between two masked people wielding assault rifles.

In the video, Yasuda identifies himself as a South Korean national called Umaru and asks for immediate help as his voice cracks.

Yasuda had covered conflict-prone areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan during his work as a freelance journalist. He went missing soon after entering Syria in June 2015.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga admitted that the man in the video was likely to be Yasuda in a news conference last week, and confirmed that the government is working to secure Yasuda’s safety. Details of measures the government is taking have not been confirmed.