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Mother pleads for son's release

Published: 7:19PM Sunday December 04, 2005 Source: One News/RNZ

The family of a New Zealand resident being held hostage in Iraq has lashed out at the government for not doing more to save their son.
It has been a week since Harmeet Singh Sooden, an Auckland University student and Canadian citizen, was kidnapped in Baghdad along with three other westerners.
Harmeet's mother made an appeal to the captors who are threatening to kill the hostages unless all Iraqi prisoners are freed by Thursday.

"My name is Manjeet Kaur Sooden. I am the mother of Harmeet Singh Sooden who is being held in Iraq. I want to appeal to those who are holding my son to release him and his companions unharmed."

"Harmeet is a much loved son and a peace loving man he went to Iraq to do good.  I pray that those who are holding Harmeet will look into their hearts see the good that is in my son."

A video released on Saturday threatened to kill the four men if Iraqi detainees are not released from prisons in Iraq, the US and the UK by December 8.

Iraq's largest Sunni party is condemning the kidnappings as international momentum to free the men gathers speed.

A leading British Muslim is in Baghdad meeting with Iraqi political and religious groups in an effort to secure the men's release.

"I dread what could happen but I also look back to the two French aid workers, the Italian journalist, to the Romanians - and I think yes it could happen," says Anas Al Tikriti from the Muslim Association of Britain.

In New Zealand the government is being criticised for not doing enough to bring Harmeet back to his family.

"We need to join the international campaign of governments and non government organisations, peace organisations around the world to put pressure on the hostage takers," says Green Party MP Keith Locke.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says Canada is taking the lead in negotiations but New Zealand has offered help and is also advising the family here.

"The government has made contact with the family, the government has had contact with the Canadian government.  I'm certain that we are also working alongside the British government who have people concerned as has the United States. So we are all dealing with a situation the details of which are very uncertain," says Peters.

Harmeet's family says it is grateful for the support its received in the past 24 hours and hopes its pleas for his release will reach the right people.