Last updated: 11 December, 2013

Yemen kidnappers free Dutch couple

A Dutch couple returned home from Yemen in good health Wednesday following a six-month kidnapping ordeal.

“We’ve waited for this moment for a very long time,” Judith Spiegel, a journalist for Dutch public television NOS and financial paper NRC Handelsblad, told a press conference at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

“This was not a very happy time for us … but it was probably still less so for our families,” she added.

Spiegel said she would try to find out whether a ransom was paid for their release, but added: “I do not rule out that we were released for free.”

Speaking to reporters before boarding the plane in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Spiegel said she and her husband Boudewijn Berendsen “were treated very well” during captivity.

No details have been revealed on the identity of the abductors or how the pair’s release, announced Tuesday, was secured.

But Spiegel dismissed reports of Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the June 8 abduction. “I think (they were) just tribes,” she said, adding that she had “no idea” if ransom was paid to the kidnappers.

“So I know there were many rumours that we were in the hands of Al-Qaeda, but I’m not so sure about that,” added Spiegel, who along with her husband appeared relaxed and in good health.

The Hague said “the Yemeni and Netherlands governments are extremely pleased to welcome the news of the release”.

“The couple is in a good physical condition, extremely happy to have survived their ordeal unharmed and wishes nothing more than to be soonest reunited with their family,” it said.

The couple had made an emotional plea in an Internet video dated July 13 for their government to act to secure their release, warning at the time that they faced execution within 10 days by their “armed” abductors.

Dutch media said Spiegel is a journalist based in Sanaa for various Dutch news outlets.

Berendsen is employed in the insurance industry.

The pair also teach at the Lebanese International University in Sanaa, local media reported.

Media reports said they were abducted from their home in Sanaa.

Hundreds of people have been kidnapped in Yemen over the past 15 years, mostly by tribesmen and nearly all of them later freed unharmed.

Al-Qaeda militants have also seized foreigners in the country, including two diplomats — an Iranian and a Saudi — as well as a South African couple.

Yemen’s powerful tribes often kidnap foreigners to use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.

In May, members of a southern tribe released three Red Cross employees, including a Swiss national and a Kenyan, and two Egyptians, following tribal mediation.