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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
BBC vigils for missing reporter
Alan Johnston
Alan Johnston has spent three years reporting from Gaza
Vigils have been held at BBC locations around the world to highlight the abduction of the BBC's Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston.

Mr Johnston, 45, was seized on 12 March in Gaza City on his way home from work.

More than 100,000 people have now signed an online petition to demand Mr Johnston's release.

The family minister of the Scottish reporter urged those holding Mr Johnston or knowing his whereabouts to do everything to secure his release.

Rev James Macfarlane, whose Lochgoilhead and Kilmorich parish is in Argyll, appealed across the religious divide for Mr Johnston's release.

"From our perspective as a Christian-based faith and to those holding Alan in an Islamic society there are nonetheless common elements to our understanding of people, what is right, and what is compassionate in the way we should treat individuals," he said.

Rev Macfarlane is due to address the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Continuing coverage

Dozens of people attended vigils at several BBC locations in London.

ALAN JOHNSTON PETITION
More than 100,000 people have written to the BBC to demand Alan Johnston's release

Speaking at a gathering at Television Centre, the BBC's world editor, Jon Williams, said: "Now, more than ever, we miss Alan's integrity and humanity in reporting that [Gaza] story.

"But he is not the only one under threat in Gaza. Alan's friends, our colleagues, Ibrahim Adwan and Rushdi Abu Allof, were among 30 journalists trapped by gunfire inside the building that houses the BBC bureau in Gaza."

Mr Williams said that BBC reporters in Gaza had been recently broadcasting around the clock "ensuring that in Alan's absence, the BBC can continue" its coverage.

Special reports

Mr Johnston's alleged kidnappers - a group calling itself Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) - have demanded Islamic cleric Abu Qatada's release from a prison in Britain as a condition of the reporter's release.

Abu Qatada, who has been described as Osama Bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador in Europe", is awaiting deportation to Jordan after the British government accused him of raising funds for extremist groups and offering "religious legitimacy" to militants.

A tape allegedly made by Mr Johnston's kidnappers and showing his BBC ID card was released two weeks ago.

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.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnston was named broadcast journalist of the year by the London Press Club for his work reporting from the Gaza Strip.

The BBC has been featuring special reports and interviews with friends and family in the hope that Mr Johnston may access them on radio or television.


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