Japanese Journalist Released After 3 Years' Captivity In Syria
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Years after he vanished in Syria, a freelance journalist is confirmed safe. Jumpei Yasuda was taken by an extremist group. But unlike other reporters who have been killed in recent years, he has surfaced in Turkey. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Japan's chief government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, told a hastily convened press conference on Tuesday that Tokyo had received information from Qatar about the journalist, 44-year-old Jumpei Yasuda.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY YOSHIHIDE SUGA: (Speaking Japanese).
KUHN: "Qatar informed us that Yasuda has been released and is at an immigration center in Antakya, Turkey," Suga told reporters. Yasuda went to Syria three years ago to report on the fate of his colleague, Kenji Goto. Goto was taken hostage in Syria in 2015 and beheaded by the Islamic State group.
An al-Qaida-affiliated group known then as the al-Nusra Front reportedly took Yasuda hostage. It's not clear how he was freed. In 2016, a video came out purporting to show Yasuda. He told his family he loved them. And he hinted at the nature of his ordeal.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JUMPEI YASUDA: When you are sitting, wherever you are, in a dark room, suffering (unintelligible) pain...
KUHN: "When you are sitting in a dark room, suffering pain," he said, "there is no one answering, no one responding. You are invisible. You do not exist. No one cares about you."
Yasuda began reporting in the Middle East in the early 2000s. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 and later freed. At the time, some Japanese voiced anger at freelance journalists who got themselves in trouble and then had to be bailed out by their government. Yasuda's family, meanwhile, has been eagerly awaiting news. His mother told state broadcaster NHK that as she prayed for her son's release, she folded little paper origami cranes - at least one a day, more than 10,000 in all. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU'S "PARANOID ANDROID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.