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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 09:52 GMT
Peacemaker who wanted to do more
Norman Kember
Mr Kember had marched against the war
Norman Kember, who has been freed by multinational forces after four months as a hostage in Iraq, has been frequently described as a man of peace.

The 74-year-old joined the throngs to march against the war in London in the spring of 2003.

But he decided that he would have to brave the well-reported dangers of Iraq if he was to truly make a difference.

Mr Kember was on a Christian Peacemaker Teams trip with American Tom Fox, 54, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, who were also captured.

Before leaving on his two-week mission Mr Kember told Premier Christian Radio that he felt he had only written and talked about peacemaking.

"I've demonstrated, but I feel that's what I'd call cheap peacemaking."

Human rights

Asked in the interview if his expedition to Iraq could prove more costly, he admitted: "It could be".

The group met the Iraqi authorities at electricity and oil plants to investigate the reasons for power shortages and held talks with local activists over human rights issues.

After Margaret Hassan, a Dublin-born aid worker, was kidnapped and believed murdered, many agencies pulled out of Iraq completely.

Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg was among those joining the appeals

If a Westerner who was an Iraqi citizen, married to an Iraqi and resident in the country for 30 years could fall victim to the kidnappers, then the risk to foreign workers with vastly inferior local knowledge was severe.

A total of 238 foreign nationals were kidnapped in Iraq between May 2003 and 20 November 2005, with about one in five killed, according to research by the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped over the same period, with many held at any given time.

The CPT's mission statement on its website is "committed to reducing violence by getting in the way".

Mr Kember's group is not thought to have had armed security with it, and the area they were kidnapped in is considered dangerous by the authorities in Iraq.

Terry Waite, who was a hostage in Beirut for four years, questioned the group's approach, saying Mr Kember had endangered himself by travelling to such a polarised situation.

Widespread appeals

The militant group that captured Mr Kember and his colleagues, the previously unknown Swords of Truth Brigade, demanded the release of all prisoners in US and Iraqi detention.

They claimed the captives were spies, only masquerading as Christian peace activists.

But the white-haired medical physicist from Pinner seemed a particularly unlikely candidate for such a far-fetched allegation.

Appeals for his release came from all directions.

Moazzam Begg led Britain's former Guantanamo Bay detainees, in appealing the kidnappers to acknowledge that the men were opponents of the war.

Abu Qatada, described as once having been al-Qaeda's "ambassador to Europe", and currently held at Full Sutton prison pending his deportation, volunteered his services.

He said the militants should free the men "in line with the principle of mercy of our religion".

Muslim envoy

The main Sunni party in Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party, said there was a danger that Islam could be tarnished by the crime, and the world's oldest Islamic movement, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, has also joined the fray.

Iraqi-born Muslim Association of Britain Anas Altikriti went to Iraq and Jordan in an attempt to mediate in the efforts to release Mr Kember and his colleagues.

In the last video released by the kidnappers, the hostages seemed to be being treated differently.

Mr Kember and Mr Fox, were shown blindfolded in orange jumpsuits in a chilling echo of the treatment of beheaded engineer Ken Bigley. Some have contrasted this with the Canadian captives, whose country opposed the war.

Perhaps the most plaintive appeal came from Mr Kember himself.

His voice cracked, and obviously speaking under duress, he uttered a plea which seemed to square with his own views.

"I ask Mr Blair to take British troops out of Iraq and leave the Iraqi people to come to their own decisions on their government."

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