Abu Qatada was allowed to film his plea as part of an unprecedented effort to secure the lives of Norman Kember, 74, and three other Western peace activists.
Their hope is that the intervention of such a prominent Islamic militant may succeed in persuading the kidnappers from the Swords of Truth group after efforts by more than 20 Muslim groups have so far failed.
Last night the kidnappers extended the deadline for killing their hostages by 48 hours to Saturday night and released new footage of Mr Kember pleading for Britain to pull out troops from Iraq and for help to free him.
They claim that it was he who approached prison staff with an offer to intervene. Both the Home and Foreign secretaries gave permission after first checking with diplomats in Baghdad that Abu Qatada’s plea would not jeopardise undercover efforts to save Mr Kember from Pinner, northwest London, two Canadians and an American. The Prime Minister was also informed.
He did not condemn kidnapping and was careful to emphasise that the appeal was on behalf of the four Christian peace activists only and did not include other Western hostages. (wow, how peaceful, ein???, We have to think why…)
The appeal was filmed on Tuesday and his lawyers handed the tape yesterday to the Arabic satellite channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya.
Last night, new television footage on al-Jazeera showed two of the prisoners, Mr Kember and Tom Fox, 54, an American peace activist, dressed in orange outfits similar to those worn by prisoners at the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre. Previous Iraqi hostages have been pictured wearing orange jumpsuits, including Briton Ken Bigley who was beheaded by his captors last year.
In the tape the activists made statements condemning the US and British presence in Iraq.
(Looks like they are extremely happy about this piece of news. I am not. He is not pleading for the lives of all the innocent hostages they have taken. He is only pleading for the lives of the ones who are coallborating directly or indirectly with theis own campaign…)