British Reporter Freed
Ridley, a reporter for the London Sunday Express was captured and detained by Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia on Sept. 28, after she crossed from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan.
“I’m fine, it’s good to be here,” Ridley told Sky News in Pakistan. “They [the Taliban] treated me with respect and courtesy.”
According to the Express, Ridley had been trying to report on conditions in Afghanistan as tensions rose over U.S. demands the Taliban turn over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
British officials met with Taliban envoy to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef Oct. 2 to press for Ridley’s release.
Meanwhile, Taliban authorities were investigating Ridley to determine whether she was a spy. On Oct. 4, Taliban authorities announced Ridley would face trial for illegally entering Afghanistan.
If Ridley had been convicted of spying, she could have faced the death penalty under the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. But they said if it could be proven she was a journalist, they would deport her.
Some worried Sunday night’s U.S. strikes on Afghan targets could have complicated Ridley’s chances for release. But her mother tells the BBC Ridley was already “a free woman” by the time U.S. attacks began.
Hearing of Ridley’s reemergence in Pakistan, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said her release would be a “great relief” for her family.
“I am sure that Yvonne’s many friends and journalist colleagues in the UK and all around the world will welcome this news as much as I do,” he said.
Meanwhile, eight foreign aid workers remain in the Taliban’s custody in Afghanistan. Arrested just over a month ago, the workers — two Americans, two Australians and four Germans — are charged with spreading Christianity, a serious crime under the Taliban’s fundamentalist Islamic regime.