URGENT Kidnappers Release Tape of U.S. Hostage Jesse Turner
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Moslem kidnappers today released a videotape in which American hostage Jesse Turner said the group holding him and three other professors was determined to swap them for 400 Arab prisoners in Israel.
Turner, 39, of Boise, Idaho, said Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, the group that claimed responsibility for the Jan. 24 abduction of the four professors, was ″firm in its demand″ that a swap be arranged.
But his voice was barely audible in the poor quality, three-minute tape that was delivered to the independent Beirut newspaper An-Nahar.
Reporters who saw and listened to Turner on the videotape said they were having difficulty transcribing what he said.
But they said he appeared to be making a new appeal to the American administration to put pressure on Israel to arrange the swap so that their lives would be saved and there will be ″a happy end for Steen’s issue.″
In previous communiques from the group, it said hostage Alann Steen, 47, of Boston, was dangerously ill and might die. It cited high blood pressure and breathing difficulties.
The group said it was Steen’s illness that prompted the organization to renew its offer of the swap, which Israel has rejected.
Steen and Turner along with fellow American Robert Polhill, 53, of New York City, and Indian Mithileshwar Singh, 60, were kidnapped at the U.S.-affilated Beirut University College in Beirut’s Moslem sector. Singh is a legal resident alien of the United States.
The release of the new tape came a few hours after students at rallied on campus to demand the release of the four teachers held hostage for 68 days.
″All of you stand up and call, call for the release of our kidnapped four,″ a dozen fine-arts students chanted. About 1,000 people took part in the one-hour open-air rally.
″Dearest Alann, John, Robert and Dr. Singh, we are spreading your message, we miss you so much and we won’t stop working (to obtain your freedom),″ Steen’s wife, Virginia Rose, said. ″I love you Alann.″
Mrs. Steen, 30, of Jackson, Mich., choked on tears and cried several times in the three minutes she spoke.
Polhill’s wife, Feryal, a Lebanese of Palestinian descent, called on the kidnappers to ″release our husbands so they can return to their suffering families.″
″We call upon those who hold our husbands to release them. Their students miss education and knowledge,″ she added, her eyes brimming with tears.
Beirut University College has about 3,000 students. The rally was called by the administration, students and teachers and attended by all.
Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine on Tuesday issued a statement saying Steen’s health was ″deteriorating day by day.″ It said the four ″spies have been committed for investigation into their crimes.″
The kidnappers’ statement Tuesday repeated an offer to swap all four educators for 400 Arabs held by Israel.
Twenty-four foreigners, including eight Americans, are missing in Lebanon and believed kidnapped since March 1985. Also missing is Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite, who dropped from sight Jan. 20 while trying to win the freedom of foreign hostages.