A screenshot taken from YouTube shows the Dutch journalist and her husband pleading for their lives. (YouTube)
A screenshot taken from YouTube shows the Dutch journalist and her husband pleading for their lives. (YouTube)

Journalist and her husband kidnapped in Yemen

New York, July 19, 2013–A Dutch journalist and her husband reported missing in Yemen in June have appeared in a video, pleading for their lives and asking for their captors’ demands to be met. Judith Spiegel, a Yemen correspondent for Radio Netherlands Worldwide, and her husband, Boudewijn Berendsen, were abducted by an unknown group in the second week of June, the Dutch station reported on Tuesday.

“We call on the kidnappers to immediately release Judith Spiegel and Boudewijn Berendsen,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “There is no motive that justifies the abduction of an innocent journalist and her husband.”

Unknown gunmen abducted Spiegel and Berendsen in the Hadda neighborhood of the capital, according to RNW and news reports. Agence France-Presse reported that the couple was last seen on June 12 and had been reported missing on June 15.

In the video, first published on YouTube on July 13 and described in numerous news reports since then, the Dutch couple said their captors would kill them in 10 days if their demands were not met, news reports said. The demands were not specified in the video.

CNN cited an unnamed tribal leader who said the kidnappers had asked for a ransom but had not disclosed an amount. The leader said the Yemeni government had asked several tribal leaders to intervene in the case and to ensure the safe release of the couple, CNN reported. He told CNN that the Dutch couple was in good health, but depressed.

In the video, the couple said they had told the Dutch ambassador in Yemen about their captor’s demands. It is not clear how the couple was able to contact the Dutch ambassador.

The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, said the abduction had the “full attention” of the government. A spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry declined to tell the BBC if the government had been asked to pay a ransom.

The Yemeni Ministry of Interior did not disclose whether the government had information on the whereabouts of the couple, news reports said.

A wave of kidnapping of Yemenis and expatriates has plagued Yemen in recent years, with journalists regarded as especially high-value targets, according to CPJ research. Disgruntled tribesmen have resorted to abductions to pressure the government to release imprisoned family members and extort political and financial compensation. Some captives have been sold to or abducted by Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Yemen page here.