Japanese Freelance Journalist Yasuda Released
The August 3 Weekly Wrap included a story about a video that surfaced with a man pleading to be rescued. There were two armed, masked men standing behind him. The captive was believed to be a freelance journalist from Japan named Jumpei Yasuda who went missing in Syria in 2015. But in the video, he claimed he was Korean and his name was Umaru.
Yasuda, now 44, was freed last month after three years in captivity in Syria, which he described as “hell.”
At a press conference, Yasuda explained that he went to Syria to cover the civil war in June 2015 but made “an unthinkable silly mistake.”
According to CTV News, he said he was prepared to enter the country but his local guide had a change of heart. So, he decided to follow an unknown pair of guides. They all entered Syria and the pair of guides captured him and shoved into a car shortly after they crossed the border.
From there, Yasuda said he repeatedly moved from one detention facility to another. Yasuda paints his captors as extremely paranoid and said at one point, he didn’t eat for 20 days in an effort to avoid any movement, reported U.S. News & World Report.
“In their logic, my making noise seemed to mean I moved to eavesdrop on what’s going on. So, whenever I made noise, they started doing things like torture (other hostages) and turn off the light,” Yasuda said.
He also described an instance where he was kept in a tiny space where he had to keep his knees constantly bent and there was barely any room to roll over while he was sleep.
While in captivity, he decided to convert to Islam to so he could move around more. “As a Muslim, you must pray five times a day. As I could move only twice a day during meal time, conversion to Islam meant five additional occasions for me to move,” he said.
Yasuda’s captors are believed to be an al-Qaida branch known at the time as the Nusra Front. When the videos, such as the one mentioned above, started coming out, his captors were seeking ransom. The Japanese government denies that they paid for Yasuda’s return. But the release was sudden and came as a surprise even to even him. On Oct. 22, his captors said he was going home, and the next day they took him to the border and handed him over to Turkish authorities.
Yasuda apologized for the trouble he caused.
“I would like to offer my apology and express my gratitude to those who worked for my release, and who were worried about me,” he said at the press conference. “I am very sorry that my conduct has had the Japanese government involved in this matter.”
However, he didn’t apologize for his decision to go to Syria. “My own conduct caused trouble for the Japanese government as well as many people. It is only natural I take criticism,” Yasuda said. But, “states kill people in war. Information is absolutely necessary for people to decide if such an act is acceptable. Information for that purpose should come not only from the states involved but from a third party as well.”
This was not Yasuda’s first stint as a captive. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese and his release was negotiated. When asked if he will continue war zone reporting, he said he doesn’t know.