Susanne Osthoff: Freed German hostage to return to Iraq, despite warnings
The German government responded critically to news that Susanne Osthoff, recently freed from hostage in Iraq, was planning to return to the country regardless of Berlin's warnings.
In her first public appearance since she was freed by her Iraqi kidnappers on Dec. 18, German archaeologist Susanne Osthoff said her kidnappers were not criminals. A picture has emerged of Osthoff in the German press as a dedicated humanitarian and historian who was well aware of the risks of life in Iraq but remained because of her close ties to people there. Speaking to Doha-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera on Monday, Osthoff, 43, said her captors told her not to be afraid as her kidnapping was "politically motivated."
Yet Osthoff's proclaimed intention to return to Iraq to continue her humanitarian and professional work has drawn the wrath of the German government.
"It is regretful that Ms. Osthoff is not following the appeal of the German government not to return to Irak," said Ruprecht Polenz, president of the German parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
"She is precisely the one who should clearly see the risk of such a decision," said Polenz.
German officials seem particularly irked by Osthoff's decision in view of the government effort that went into organizing her release. Only eight days after gaining her release, politicians are calling for levying a financial penalty as a consequence if Osthoff should ignore their warnings and return to Iraq.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier is also urging Osthoff to stay away from IraqBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German Foreign Minister Steinmeier is also urging Osthoff to stay away from Iraq
"After the intensive efforts of all parties involved over a period of three weeks in the end led to her being released, I would have little understanding if Ms. Osthoff found herself again in a dangerous situation," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
"I am appealing to Ms. Osthoff to distance herself from the plans of going back to Iraq," Steinmeier said. And SPD parliamentarian Lothar Mark said Osthoff should realize "the German tax payer would not finance another release effort should she once again be taken hostage."
Osthoff herself has not responded to the German government's criticism of her plans, but Claudia Roth, the head of the Green Party, has said she can understand that someone as dedicated as Osthoff to helping the people of Iraq would want to return.
"In our democracy, it is good and right that people can make free decisions. ... Ms. Osthoff should decide for herself what she wants to do," Roth said in the Wednesday edition of the daily Handelsblatt.
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