TOKYO – The wife of a Japanese journalist believed to have been kidnapped in Syria made a tearful appeal for his release Tuesday, speaking out publicly for the first time since he went missing more than three years ago.
Using her stage name Myu, the wife of Jumpei Yasuda told a news conference that her husband is no enemy of the Middle East.
"I think he wanted to be the bridge between them and us," she said, her voice breaking occasionally. "So, I appeal to you, the people in the Middle East. My husband is not your enemy but he loves you very much. That's what I beg you to know and understand."
Myu, a singer, said she couldn't remain silent after the release of a video last week that showed a captive who the Japanese government said it believes is Yasuda.
The bearded man, speaking in Japanese, said he faced harsh conditions and needed an immediate rescue. He described himself, though, as a Korean named Umaru.
Yasuda, a freelance journalist, went to Syria in 2015 to report on a friend, Kenji Goto, also a Japanese freelancer, who had been taken hostage and killed by the Islamic State group earlier that year.
The last contact with Yasuda was a message to another Japanese freelancer on June 23, 2015. In his last tweet two days earlier, Yasuda had said his reporting was often obstructed and that he would stop tweeting his whereabouts and activities.
Myu said that Yasuda told her he was heading to northern Europe before he left and that she last spoke to him also on June 23, 2015. He was supposed be back in Japan in July, she said.
"I suppose various factors must have led us to this situation," she said. "I heard from him that people in the Middle East value family, that their family bond is tight and they love family very much. So, I beg you to return my husband to us safely as soon as possible. There are so many — his family, relatives and friends — here in Japan who are waiting for the return of my husband."
She said she hasn't been contacted by whoever abducted Yasuda and has not heard of any ransom demands. She said she calls the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe every day to thank him for his help and seek his continued support.
Myu has been married to Yasuda for 10 years. Organizers of the news conference said she asked not to be identified by her real name.
Yasuda started reporting on the Middle East in the early 2000s. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release.