Garabed Jekerjian

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Times of Oman, Oman
Sept 11 2005

Iraq group threatens to kill Lebanese hostage

DUBAI -- A previously unheard of group in Iraq threatened to kill a Lebanese hostage it accused of working with a liquor distribution firm that "deals with the occupiers," according to a video posted on the Internet Sunday.

"The Group for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" said it had "captured an importer of food and liquor in Baghdad who works for a company that deals directly with the crusader occupiers of Iraq."

It demanded the company's "withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible in order to free the Lebanese hostage -- otherwise woe on him and you."

The hostage, who speaking in Arabic gave the Armenian name of Garabet Jean Chekerjian, said he held dual Lebanese and Cypriot nationality. He was shown in the footage sitting on the floor with his hands and feet tied.

A hooded gunman pointed an automatic weapon at his head. The captive exhorted Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and the Lebanese embassy in Baghdad to put pressure on his employers to pull out of Iraq.

"I hold dual Lebanese and Cypriot nationality and I work with the branches of the 'Jetco Trading' (phonetic) company in Lebanon, Cyprus and Iraq. The company supplies foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages to the occupation forces and the Iraqi army," he said.

"I urge the company to leave Iraq and I ask the Lebanese embassy to put pressure on the company and its owner to sever links with the occupation forces and the Iraqi army."

Addressing unspecified people he named as "Gebran, Avo and Rita," as well as Lahoud, the captive called on all Lebanese companies to quit Iraq, which he said was occupied "as Lebanon had been 15 years ago."

Dozens of foreigners have been kidnapped by anti-US insurgents in Iraq and some have been executed by their captors. About 30 Lebanese working for private companies in Iraq have been kidnapped and later freed, most of them in exchange for a ransom. But in September 2004, one Lebanese national was killed by his captors and three others died during an attempted kidnap.


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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Foreign Ministry works to free hostage in Iraq Jekerjian pleads to employer to comply with kidnappers' demands

By Nada Bakri Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it was doing everything possible to free the kidnapped Lebanese citizen in Iraq who is being held by a previously unheard of group called " Propagation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice." The name of the group comes from a line in the Koran, the Islamic holy book, and is used as the title of the religious police in Saudi Arabia.

According to a statement released by the ministry, the Lebanese charge d'affaires in Iraq has been asked to conduct "urgent contacts with the relevant Iraqi authorities" to secure the release of Garabed Jekerjian.

The statement also confirmed that Jekerjian works for a liquor distribution company in Iraq.

Sources close to the Lebanese Embassy in Iraq told The Daily Star that the company is now considering announcing its withdrawal from Iraq. The sources added "such an announcement can help release the hostage, but again nothing can be predicted in these situations."

Earlier the group said it had "captured an importer of food and liquor in Baghdad who works for a company that deals directly with the Crusader occupiers of Iraq," and it demanded the company's "withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible in order to free the Lebanese hostage - otherwise woe on him and you."

On Sunday, Jekerjian appeared in a video posted on an Islamic Web site, sitting on the floor in front of a gray wall with chains around his wrists and ankles. A masked man points a rifle at his head. It was not possible to authenticate the video in which he was pleading his company - named Jetco - to leave Iraq to save his life. He also asked President Emile Lahoud and the Lebanese Embassy to pressure the company to leave the country.

Referring to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and his apparent boss, Jubran, he says:

"Emile Lahoud, Jubran, colleagues and friends, please press the company and the embassy. ... Please, I have no one else. I am alone. I have a daughter. Please, I beg you to leave [Iraq]."

He added: "I hold dual Lebanese and Cypriot nationality and I work with the branches of the 'Jetco Trading' company in Lebanon, Cyprus and Iraq. The company supplies foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages to the occupation forces and the Iraqi Army."

Sources told The Daily Star that the kidnappers have asked for a ransom of $2 million.

More than two weeks had passed since the kidnapping of Jekerjian and another Lebanese man who remains unheard of, with no news of their fate. The second hostage Elie Nassif, and Jekerjian were kidnapped from Jekerjian's house in the upscale Mansour neighborhood in Baghdad some two weeks ago. According to sources in Iraq, the kidnappers were disguised in police uniforms.

As the string of abductions against Lebanese nationals continues, Iraqi authorities stand helpless in the face of the street gangs causing widespread terror.

The Lebanese authorities have issued more than one notice warning Lebanese citizens against traveling to Iraq. - With agencies.


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