Hostage's brother accuses US over freedom moves

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The Independent Online

The brother of British hostage Kenneth Bigley today accused the American government of "sabotaging" moves to free his brother.

The brother of British hostage Kenneth Bigley today accused the American government of "sabotaging" moves to free his brother.

Paul Bigley said that his brother had been granted a "stay of execution" by yesterday's announcement by Iraqi authorities that they would free female prisoner Dr Rihab Taha - a key demand of the hostage-takers.

But the American authorities in Iraq moved swiftly to say that the former germ warfare specialist, who is in their custody, would not be freed.

Following the release of a direct video plea from Mr Bigley to ask Prime Minister Tony Blair to intervene, Paul Bigley today said that the UK and US should keep out of what should be an internal Iraqi affair.

He said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Mr Blair can go fishing as far as I'm concerned. He hasn't got to call or do anything.

"All the powers have to do now is allow the Iraqis to conduct their own internal affairs the way they should be doing. They have been handed over sovereignty to conduct their business on a day-to-day basis.

"A judge has made a legal decision to release three people, one female and two males. The Minister of Justice has endorsed this, and this gentleman published this on the international news.

"Based on this, together with my personal lobbying in the background in the Middle East, we had a stay of execution and we have saved my brother's life for at least 24 hours.

"That was a shadow of light in a big, long, dark, damp, filthy, cold tunnel.

"Now this has been sabotaged."

Mr Bigley asked: "Is this a puppet Government or the Americans moving the goalposts to suit their own aims again? What is going on here?

"Leave the Iraqis to do their own Iraqi business."

Mr Bigley's captors released a video yesterday in which the 62-year-old hostage broke down and pleaded with Mr Blair to save his life.

The engineer faces a gruesome execution if his kidnappers' demands are not met as he is now the only survivor of three men snatched from Baghdad six days ago.

His family have released a statement pleading with the kidnappers to spare Mr Bigley's life.

Meanwhile, the brutal Tawhid and Jihad group has also released another video showing the apparent beheading of his fellow hostage, American Jack Hensley.

The grisly scenes followed the beheading of the third man, American Eugene Armstrong, shown on an Islamic website on Monday.

The group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had threatened that Mr Bigley would suffer the same fate if women prisoners are not released from Iraqi jails.

The trio were seized from the garden of their home in the wealthy al-Mansour district of Baghdad without a struggle last Thursday.

They were working for Middle East-based Gulf Supplies and Commercial Services. Mr Bigley was just days from retirement.