As Muslims speak out, appeals intensify for reporter's release

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As calls for the safe release of kidnapped Monitor correspondent Jill Carroll continued to pour in Thursday, her mother appealed directly to the kidnappers "to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world.... They've picked the wrong person ... if they're looking for someone who is an enemy of Iraq,'' Mary Beth Carroll told CNN. "Jill is just the opposite."

Some of the Arab world's most influential Muslim leaders, as well as human rights groups and politicians, are calling for the release of Ms. Carroll, whose captors have threatened to kill her if all women prisoners in coalition custody in Iraq are not released. An Iraqi official says a recommendation to release six of the eight women detention was made prior to the broadcast of the video by Carroll's captors.

A senior official in Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, who asks not to be identified out of fear for his safety, says that a nine-member detainee review panel (six Iraqi officials and three members of the US-led coalition) here recently recommended the release of six of the eight women in custody.

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He says their release was recommended on the merits of their situation and not in connection with Carroll. He adds that the final decision now rests with Iraq's Ministry of Justice and the US general responsible for detainee operations, who should ratify the panel's recommendations.

He says the panel "did not make this recommendation because of the kidnapping or because of the hostage. This is their normal work. They have made many other recommendations before for prisoners to be released. They have released more than 10,000 prisoners male and female."

He expects the six Iraqi women will be released soon.

But a Pentagon spokesman in Washington told Reuters a release is not imminent. "There is no expected resolution of their cases in the near future," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said.

In her televised statement, Mrs. Carroll spoke of her daughter's passion for journalism and Iraq. "Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter who loves Iraq and its people will not create justice.

"To her captors, I say that Jill's welfare depends upon you. And so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely home to her family who needs her and loves her. Jill's father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release."

Her plea was echoed by many respected voices in the Arab world. The Supreme Guide of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Mahdi Akef, urged "the kidnappers of the American journalist Jill Carroll to release her immediately'' in a statement Thursday. "The Supreme Guide calls on all Iraqi factions to protect civilian lives, Iraqis or not, and especially the lives of reporters and media workers who came to expose the crimes of occupation."

The Muslim Brotherhood is considered the most powerful Islamist political opposition in the Arab world.

In Iraq Thursday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni Arab political party, also released a statement denounced kidnappings "because they are conducted against innocent people, who are mostly sympathetic with the Iraqis and their miseries.... The IIP urges the kidnappers to release this female journalist as soon as possible."

Saad Bazaaz, editor of Azzaman, a daily newspaper, and chairman of al-Sharqiya television channel in Iraq, in a phone call from Qatar, said that "Voices are coming from everywhere [on Carroll's behalf], even from the hardliners. And that is very good. Everyone in Iraq is talking about Jill Carroll, and they are saying the right things."

The Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose Al Jazeera program has made him one of the region's most respected and popular preachers, reiterated his previous religious ruling, or fatwa, against the kidnapping and murder of journalists in Iraq and said this certainly holds for Carroll's case.

In Cairo, eight regional Arab human rights groups issued a joint statement reminding Carroll's kidnappers of her "respect for Iraqi, Arab and Islamic norms and traditions."

"The American freelance journalist is known for her extreme sympathy towards the Iraqi people and opposition to their suffering since the outbreak of the war and the invasion of Iraq,'' they wrote. The groups "plead for her release as a sign of [her captors'] good intentions and in respect to a journalist highly respected by all.... The Christian Science Monitor has been known for its objectivity ... in covering Iraq," the human rights groups wrote.

Statement from Mary Beth Carroll

"My daughter, Jill Carroll, was taken hostage on Saturday, January 7th, in Baghdad, where she works as a reporter. Jill's fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcomed guest of many Iraqi friends.

"A video just released gives us hope that Jill is alive, but has also shaken us about her fate. So, I, her father, and her sister are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world.

"Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs. We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return. Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter who loves Iraq and its people will not create justice.

"To her captors, I say that Jill's welfare depends upon you. And so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely home to her family who needs her and loves her.

Jill's father, sister, and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release."

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