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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 15:19 GMT
Ex-Iraq hostages forgive captors
Ex-hostages Norman Kember, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden
The former hostages were part of an international peace group
Three peace campaigners who were taken hostage say they "unconditionally" forgive their Iraqi captors.

Briton Norman Kember and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden said they opposed the death penalty for the hostage-takers.

The three added they had yet to decide whether to give evidence at the men's trial, which is set for next year.

Christian peace activist Mr Kember was seized in Baghdad in November 2005 with three other men and held for 117 days.

'Great suffering'

In a joint statement at a press conference at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation in London they said they wanted "all possible leniency" for the accused men.

The men said: "We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us. We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what was taken from us."

The death penalty is an irrevocable judgment...We oppose the death penalty
Former hostages' statement

They said their captors caused "great suffering" to them and their families, but they held no malice towards them and had "no wish for retribution".

The "cycle of violence" in Iraq did not justify the kidnappers' actions, but should be considered in any potential judgment, they said.

The men added: "The death penalty is an irrevocable judgment. It erases all possibility that those who have harmed others, even seriously, can yet turn to good. We oppose the death penalty."

Peace group

Mr Kember said the only way he would take part in a trial would be to plead for clemency.

Police have approached the three men about appearing at the trial, which will take place at Iraq's Central Criminal Court.

Mr Kember, 74, from Pinner, north-west London, was in Iraq as part of Canadian-based international peace group Christian Peacemaker Teams.

A fourth captive, American Tom Fox, was found shot dead in Baghdad in March.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Norman Kember explains why he is forgiving of his captors



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