NEW YORK – A Canadian also held captive in Syria has said that freed Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda should not be criticized for doing his job.
Yasuda, 44, who returned to Japan late last month after 40 months of captivity, has been criticized by some for putting himself in harm’s way by entering Syria alone. He was almost immediately taken hostage by a warring faction that then demanded a ransom for his release.
“I think it is very important for journalists and humanitarians to go to areas where a lot of people don’t or can’t get to,” Sean Moore said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The truth has to be told somehow, and that is a journalist’s job.”
“He (Yasuda) wasn’t carrying a handgun or an AK-47. He was there with a pen, and his punishment for carrying a pen was absolutely brutal and unnecessary,” Moore said.
“Anybody that criticizes him truly doesn’t understand the situation,” said Moore, 48, a resident of Ontario who was freed in February after being held captive for about a month.
Moore also faced criticism when he returned home.
“Many said, ‘Sean Moore deserved it and should have been left to rot in hell.’ I was told I took the risk and now I should pay the price,” he said. “It is difficult to read and hear these comments.”
Moore was taken hostage while trying to help a Canadian woman bring her two sons home from her ex-husband in Lebanon by taking them through Syria and to Turkey.
“He (Yasuda) has been through literal hell. It is easy to put blinders on and walk away,” Moore said.
Yasuda has said he and Moore were held at the same location, and Moore said Yasuda may have remembered his name because he said it every time guards threw food into his cell.
The captivity was “a living hell,” including beatings, Moore said. He was confined in a 90-cm by 1.5 meter cell which was sometimes flooded, and he was fed rotting food.
Moore said he did not see Yasuda at the facility since he was blindfolded and handcuffed any time his captors took him out of the cell.
He also said his captors told him on the day of his release that they were Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. That group formed through a merger of several groups including the Nusra Front.