Wife of Briton held in Iraq pleads for his release

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The Independent Online

The wife of Norman Kember, the British aid worker kidnapped in Iraq over a week ago, has made a televised appeal for his release.

Pat Kember calmly told his captors, via Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera, that her husband was a good man who believed in peace and had come to Iraq to help its people.

"Throughout his life he bravely fought against all kinds of injustice," she said, her words dubbed into Arabic. "He went to Iraq to help the Iraqi people to stop the spread of abuse ... and to make Iraq a safer place.

"Please release Norman and his colleagues so that they can continue their work ...to overcome evil by engaging in a humanitarian action."

In a chilling videotape broadcast by the station on Friday, the kidnappers threatened to kill 74-year-old Mr Kember and his three colleagues taken hostage this Thursday unless all prisoners in US and Iraqi detention centres are released.

Mr Kember, from Pinner, north-west London, was seized in Baghdad last weekend alongside American Tom Fox, 54, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32.

He had travelled to Iraq as a "gesture of solidarity" with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a Canada-based peace group.

A leading Muslim member of the British anti-war movement has spent the weekend meeting with Sunni groups in Baghdad asking for their support in freeing the hostages.

Anas Altikriti said last night he was "encouraged and optimistic" after a positive reaction in the city.

He arrived in Iraq on Saturday and has persuaded organisations to issue statements condemning the kidnappings, including Iraq's largest Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party.

The party said in a statement: "Continuing to hold them will give those who support the war against our country a chance to say that Iraqis don't make a difference between those who support them and those who are against them. The kidnapping will have a grave negative effect among those who call for ending occupation. "

Mr Altikriti has also secured a promise of statement from the Iraqi People's Conference, and is hopeful that the Association of Muslim Scholars will do the same. He has gained the support of the unions representing doctors, dentists and university lecturers, he said.

"I have requested that each ... of them issue a statement and they have all agreed to do so," Mr Altikriti said.

"We don't know who the abductors are, where they stand or who they like or dislike ... But there is reason for quite a lot of hope."