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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 19:36 GMT 20:36 UK
UK Palestinians in Johnston plea
Alan Johnston
Alan Johnston has spent three years reporting from Gaza
Leading members of Britain's Palestinian community have called for the immediate release of kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston.

The main Palestinian representative in the UK, Manuel Hassassian, was among many taking part in a day of solidarity in London for the reporter.

Mr Johnston was abducted at gunpoint in Gaza City on his way home on 12 March, nine weeks ago today.

A tape allegedly made by his kidnappers was released last week.

Issued by a group calling itself the Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), the tape showed the 44-year-old's BBC ID card, and also demanded the release of Muslim prisoners in British jails.

'He works for us'

The solidarity event was held at a Palestinian restaurant in west London.

Organisers said they wanted to "send a clear message to his kidnappers that the Palestinian community... are appalled by this act".

Restaurant owner Mohammed Zomlot, who is from Gaza, said the Palestinian community in the UK wanted to support Mr Johnston.

"I feel that we are the people who really should care about Gaza, and who should care about Alan," he said.

"Because Alan, at the end of the day, he's one of the people who cares about us and he works for us, and that's why we have a responsibility to protect him, and we have to ask for his immediate release."

The abduction of Mr Johnston, the only Western reporter permanently based in Gaza, has triggered appeals for his release from lawmakers and rights groups around the world.

Leaders including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have called for him to be freed. On Sunday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman condemned the kidnapping in the first official comments from Tehran since it happened.

Last week, Alan Johnston was named broadcast journalist of the year by the London Press Club for his work reporting from the Gaza Strip.

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