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The German government has another scandal on its hands, and this one they went out of their way to create. The hostage that people widely believe Germany traded for the release of a terrorist that tortured and murdered American Robert Stethem in 1985 has refused to come back to Germany and insists on returning to Iraq instead. The Times reports that the hostage, Susanne Osthoff, had converted to Islam and married an Arabic nomad long before being captured by terrorists last month:
THE German Government angrily rebuked a former hostage yesterday who is determined to return to Iraq despite being held captive for three weeks by a Sunni gang.
Susanne Osthoff, a 43-year-old archaeologist, announced this week on al-Jazeera television that she would go back to her work in northern Iraq, trying to set up a German cultural centre in Arbil.
Angela Merkel’s new Government, which regards the freeing of Frau Osthoff this month as its first foreign policy triumph, is furious. It made huge efforts to secure her release and is widely believed to have paid a ransom.
It has now blocked all funding for her project and has told her that she should leave the region immediately. She is believed currently to be in Jordan, with her 12-year-old daughter, preparing to return.
“I would have little sympathy if Frau Osthoff puts herself again in danger considering the intensive efforts made by many people to secure her release,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, who headed a team that negotiated her release.
CQ readers started following this story a week ago, when the Germans suddenly released Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Hezbollah terrorist jailed for life in Germany for killing an American Navy diver in Beirut. The release of Hamadi came shortly before terrorists in Iraq released Osthoff. While the Germans delivered Hamadi to Beirut, they continued to deny any linkage between Osthoff's sudden release and their parole of a murderer they knew the Americans wanted for trial in the US.
Now, after having traded something for Osthoff, the Germans will look damned foolish indeed if she comes up missing again. On the other hand, just as with the Giuliana Sgrena incident, one can wonder whether Osthoff herself had a hand in her own kidnapping and ransom. If so, her possible partners might not want to team up with her again, as the Times notes that the German magazine Der Spiegel says the kidnappers appeared tired of dealing with her.
In any event, the Germans might find their initial political victory turn into a giant headache -- and Germans might start asking Merkel's government exactly what Osthoff cost them.Sphere It View blog reactions
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