Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Oops! She (Florence Aubenas) Did it Again...

(Note: For background to this post, see "More Euros for Terror?" and "Follow-Up: The Release of Florence Aubenas".)

The “Florence and Hussein” show has been all over the French media since the arrival in Paris last Thursday of Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, former translator and guide of Libération reporter Florence Aubenas in Iraq and her alleged co-hostage during her period of detention by still unidentified hostage-takers. On Sunday, the remarkably fit looking duo even put in a surprise appearance at the annual aviation industry fair at Le Bourget.

As Gudrun Eussner reminds us on her German language blog, the two are supposed to have been freshly liberated from five months of captivity, blindfolded and with hands bound, in a 2 x 4 x 1.5 (high) meter cellar, i.e. in which they could not stand up and which, according to Hussein Hanoun, they were permitted to leave only “once or twice” a day to go to the bathroom. The ever alert Gudrun also brings to my attention the following intriguing remark made by Florence Aubenas at the air show (and reported in this AP article [link in French]):
I'm really just here because Hussein was a pilot. When we worked together in Baghdad, and then when we were taken hostage, it’s true that it’s something about which we always talked, how he loved planes and that when he would come to France, he would go see where he did his training as a pilot. It was like a dream for him.
Hitherto, Florence Aubenas has insisted that she was not permitted to talk to the, on her account, one other hostage with whom she shared her captivity and that when she once tried she received a beating. Indeed, she has claimed that the ban on talking was so complete that she did not even come to realize that her fellow inmate was Hussein Hanoun until shortly before her release.

Hussein Hanoun was a fighter pilot in the Iraqi air force, in which capacity he flew French-made Mirage fighter jets that he learned to pilot in France. The above-cited AP article notes tersely that "after his demobilization from the Iraqi air force in 1991, he went into business."