Turkish activists grab two hostages in London

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The Independent Online
PETER VICTOR

Two hostages snatched by Turkish political activists in a central London trade centre yesterday were still being held captive late last night.

However, a third hostage, Joe Postlethwaite, a Norwich Union insurance representative who had been making a routine call at the Turkish-British Chamber of Commerce, was released after being held for seven hours.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said he was released at 8.40pm after negotiators secured his freedom. Mr Postlethwaite had been grabbed by the protesters in the confusion when they stormed the building.

The two remaining hostages - the centre's administrator, Solmaz Atan, and Leah Barker, 20, a secretary - were being held inside the four-storey building by 40 members of London's Turkish and Kurdish community who were protesting against the treatment of political prisoners in Turkey's jails.

Police surrounded the building in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, but were powerless to release the hostages after members of the Committee for Solidarity for Political Prisoners barricaded themselves in.

Demonstrators outside cheered and clapped, performed traditional dances and shouted anti-government slogans, demanding an end to fascism in their country.

Ms Barker, speaking on a telephone link, said earlier: "One of them buzzed on the intercom saying he was a student who wanted information on import- export trading. As I opened the door they all barged through. They haven't hurt me, but obviously it's an uncomfortable situation."

She didn't feel threatened, but wanted "to be allowed out to go home to my family".

Speaking from inside the building, a spokesman for the group said the protest was a reaction against the killing of five prisoners in Istanbul's Umraniye jail three days ago.

"If we don't get the attention we will resist all the attempts to remove us from here. We are prepared to take the consequences of our actions, be that arrest or going to prison."

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