Bosnian Serb Officials Hold and Interrogate Monitor Reporter
(Page 4 of 4)
Otherwise, Marko threatened, Rohde would be turned over to a guard who Rohde thought had just asked when the American was going to be sent to a notorious Bosnian Serb prison camp.Skip to next paragraph
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It was the lowest point of Rohde's captivity. His defenses weakened by lack of sleep and a constant dull fear, he broke down and cried. He considered admitting to espionage - but with Marko out of the room, a young guard leaned over the desk and whispered that he believed Rohde was a journalist and shouldn't admit to more. If not for that advice, Rohde might have given Marko what he wanted. Instead, he began to overdo his crying by blubbering on purpose. He decided it would only enhance the picture of him as a sniveling reporter, as opposed to a trained and hardened spy.
Faye Bowers, Rohde's editor at Monitor headquarters in Boston, arrived at work at 4 a.m. so she could make calls to the Balkans. By Tuesday, David had been missing for 72 hours, and she was becoming more worried. She'd learned about his trip into Bosnian Serb territory from a computer message he had left her, and from one of Rohde's friends in Sarajevo. She'd put out feelers with the State Department and called David's brother, Lee, in New Hampshire on Monday. So far, no one in the world seemed to know where he was.
Bowers called an experienced reporter in Belgrade and asked for help. She told the reporter of Rohde's disappearance. Disconcertingly, the reporter began to cry. She knew the stories David had written, and knew the kind of people that probably had him in their grip.
But the reporter also promised to help. Shortly thereafter, she called back with a bit of news: The Bosnian Serbs did have Rohde, and the US Embassy in Serbia proper knew it. Immediately, Bowers called the Belgrade Embassy, where a US diplomat denied the story. "Ms. Bowers, that's absolutely false," he said.
At this point, Rohde's editor was terrified. She continued making calls to colleagues of Rohde in the Balkans, as well as State Department and UN officials. Other Monitor editors jumped in and began calling the International Red Cross, and anyone else they thought could help. By the end of the day, the paper's senior staff decided to issue a press release on David's disappearance. At this point, they decided, publicity was their best hope.
'Deported' from Bangkok
Back in Bosnian Serb territory, Marko and Rohde battled through the rest of the week. The reporter would stride up and down the small room, repeating his story over and over, denying that he was a CIA agent in the control of anybody. Communication was difficult, as Marko's English was far from perfect, and Rohde's Serbian was little better. At one point in their mental struggle, after perusing Rohde's passport, Marko said "Ah, Mr. David, this is not the first time you have entered a country illegally!"
"What do you mean?" Rohde asked.
"Right here," said Marko, "I see here you were thrown out of Bangkok."
Rohde looked at the passport stamp in question. "No, that says 'departed'!" he said, "Not 'deported'! They're different words!"
On Thursday, Marko allowed Rohde to return to the hotel for a shower. On Monday, the last time he'd been there, the reporter had almost caught the eye of a passing international relief worker he knew. This time his guards marched him directly through the lobby into a hallway, making sure that as few people as possible saw the reporter's return. Rohde thought this was not a good sign. No one in America knew where he was, he thought, and the Serbs wanted to keep it that way. He could be killed and his death blamed on combat, or the Muslims.
The shower, the first he'd had in days, was a bit of normalcy. He relaxed, and almost cried again. This time he wasn't faking his emotion.
*Tomorrow: prison , then release.