The Words of the Ota Family

Hostages Released In Paraguay After TV Plea

April 21, 2007
AP And AFP, Asuncion And Tokyo

KIDNAPPED FOR CASH: Police said the hostages were traveling in two cars when they were stopped at gunpoint. Rafael Ramos reported the crime on a mobile phone.

Kidnappers in Paraguay yesterday released a Japanese member of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and two Paraguayans after 19 days in captivity, the church said. The Unification Church in Tokyo was informed of the release of Hirokazu Ota and the Paraguayans in a call from an employee of the company, said a church spokesman.

"Mr. Ota himself had called up the company and told them he and the two Paraguayans were all safe," the spokesman said.

The release of the hostages followed a TV appeal on Thursday. A spokesman for The Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church appealed for the kidnappers holding a Japanese member of the church and two Paraguayans to accept an agreed-upon ransom and release the hostages.

Church spokesman Felipe Paredes called television station Canal 4 and other Asuncion stations to urge the captors to free the victims, including Japanese businessman Ota, 62, who runs the local agribusiness company Victoria, which is controlled by the church.

Besides Ota, the kidnappers on April 1 seized Ota's Japanese secretary -- who was freed unharmed on April 10 -- and Paraguayan police officer Rafael Ramos and his schoolteacher girlfriend, Nancy Gimenez.

"Please, we ask of you who are continuing to hold Ota and the two other Paraguayans to comply with the agreement we made. We have the money you demanded," Paredes said in a wavering voice as he spoke on Canal 4 by telephone.

He told the station that the ransom, negotiated independently of authorities, totaled US$300,000 for the three but he had not heard from the kidnappers in days.

Paredes also warned the captors that Ota was in "fragile health" and urged a prompt end to his ordeal. He did not elaborate on what might be ailing Ota.

"We are very worried because we have received no new information since last Tuesday, the day of our last conversation," he added.

Paredes also asked police and judicial investigators to stand back until the kidnapping is safely resolved.

Police said the Japanese were traveling in a car when they were stopped at gunpoint. Ramos and his girlfriend were traveling in another car behind them and Ramos reported the crime on a mobile phone before the Paraguayans were also seized.

Jeronimo Amarilla, another spokesman for Moon's church, said he lamented the police shadowing of the case, saying their presence had "irritated the kidnappers."

He did not elaborate but had said earlier that authorities had wiretapped a line used in the negotiations.

Police said they had evidence of the participation of seven Paraguayan suspects in the case and had issued warrants for their arrests.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Tparents Home