Terry Waite launches defence of Hezbollah, the militant group that kidnapped and torture him 25 years ago

 

Terry Waite, who was kidnapped and tortured 25 years ago by associates of the militant group Hezbollah, has returned to Lebanon to meet representatives of the organisation responsible for his capture.

The 73-year-old returned to Beirut last week to reconcile with his captors and to lay to rest the ghosts of the past.

Meeting Ammar Moussawi, a senior figure within Hezbollah, he told him: "My first reason for the visit is to say the past is the past. Let us leave it."

Mr Waite also highlighted the plight of Syrians fleeing civil war in their homeland and asked for Hezbollah's help in the run-up to Christmas, he told the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Waite travelled to Lebanon in 1987 as an envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury to try to secure the release of British hostage John McCarthy and other Western captives.

But he was accused of being a CIA agent and kidnapped.

For the first year of his captivity, Mr Waite was subjected to beatings and a mock execution. He was kept mainly in solitary confinement, chained to a radiator for 23 hours a day.

He was released at the end of 1991 and now says Hezbollah is a party of "stature", and that the west's view of the group is "very negative".

Mr Waite told Mr Moussawi, the organisation's most senior foreign affairs official, that Hezbollah was seen "quite wrongly" as a terrorist organisation.

He then asked for the group to help refugees fleeing from Syria, saying: "It is my view that Hezbollah can do itself a great deal of good at Christmas, the Christian festival, by perhaps doing something to give some support to the refugees who are in this country.

"When it does, the message will carry beyond the border of Lebanon."

During the meeting, Mr Moussawi denied Hezbollah were responsible for his kidnapping and said Mr Waite would be welcome back "any time".

Mr Waite added in a statement: "Hezbollah has a negative image in the West and there are those who will accuse me on consorting with terrorists.

"I would remind such accusers that Hezbollah has grown into a fully-fledged political party with seats in Lebanon's Parliament and is now in a unique position to work for peace in the region.

"I met with them quite prepared to put my own sufferings in the past.

"After all, the people of Lebanon have suffered far more than I have. The only way forward is by the pathway of forgiveness, which is a difficult and dangerous road."

PA

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