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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 17:30 GMT
Briton in Afghan kidnap dispute
Peter Jouvenal
Mr Jouvenal with his wife (R) and sister-in-law after release
A British hotelier and cameraman has said Afghan authorities tried to get him to confess to involvement in the kidnapping of three UN hostages.

Peter Jouvenal said he was held overnight and repeatedly questioned by interior ministry officials.

He said he had taken a message of a ransom offer from a Kosovo businessman to the Army of Muslims group, which claimed they were holding the workers.

However, Mr Jouvenal said he believed no ransom was handed over.

The UN workers, all of whom had been helping to organise the presidential election on 9 October, were seized at gunpoint from a Kabul street on 28 October. They were freed on Tuesday.

Peshawar trip

Mr Jouvenal, a well-known figure who owns a guest house in Kabul, said he was invited to talks on Thursday by "interior ministry officials" and told that he could leave by 1700 local time.


However, he was then kept overnight and repeatedly questioned over his role. He was not arrested or charged.

"No one told me why I was detained," he said.

"Some people came and told me to sign a statement saying that I was part of the kidnappers and I said, 'that is rubbish'."

Peter Jouvenal
This is the first time I've ever been treated like this by the Afghan authorities
Peter Jouvenal

Mr Jouvenal told the officials he had travelled to Peshawar in Pakistan to contact the Army of Muslims.

He brought a message from Kosovan businessman Behgjet Pacolli of a $1.2m ransom offer for the release of Kosovo hostage Shqipe Habibi and her colleagues Annetta Flanigan of Northern Ireland and Filipino Angelito Nayan.

Mr Jouvenal says the Army of Muslims' demand was for $1.5m but he added that he had no direct contact with its leader, Akbar Agha.

"As far as I understand that money was not paid," Mr Jouvenal said.

He said he had been involved in previous attempts to free hostages, adding: "This is the first time I've ever been treated like this by the Afghan authorities."

Karate moves

Afghan interior ministry spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, said Mr Jouvenal had been suspected of involvement and was released after 24 hours under Afghan law.

But he told the BBC that Mr Jouvenal was still under suspicion and could be interrogated again.

Angelito Nayan, Shqipe Habibi and Annetta Flanigan
The circumstances of the hostages' release is still a mystery

When asked whether Mr Jouvenal was pressured into signing a statement, Mr Mashal said he did not have details of the questioning.

However, when asked further he said: "Nobody has the right to press someone to sign a statement if they haven't done anything."

The Army of Muslims claims Afghan authorities agreed to free 24 jailed comrades in return for the UN workers.

Afghan officials deny this. They previously suggested the hostages may have been held by a criminal gang.

The circumstances of the release remains a mystery. The hostages have not thrown any light on the matter.

However, after returning to Manila, Mr Nayan spoke of how the captives passed time playing games and even taught their kidnappers karate moves.

"The kidnappers made sure that my friends and I were warm enough in freezing weather at night, fed us quite generously... even allowed us to listen to pop hits broadcast by a British station for British forces," Mr Nayan said.

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