29 December 2015

Niger: Former French Hostage to Sue French State, Areva

Ex-French hostage Thierry Dol says he will press charges against the French state and his employer, energy giant Areva, so as to find out what led to his rescue after three years in captivity in Niger in October 2013.

The 34-year-old engineer from Martinique was one of four French hostages kidnapped on 16 September 2010 from the Arlit mine site and held by jihadists from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

But the details of the men's release and rescue remain unclear.

Although Dol was relieved to have been rescued, he said "they [the government] were really putting on a show after having abandoned us".

"It all happened so fast," he told Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday. "Even today I don't know if there was a ransom involved, if yes, how much, who the mediators might of been or other players ... and I need to know. This is why I'm launching this legal procedure today."

In an exclusive interview with the daily, he told of his anger at Areva because he says they were well aware of the dangers in the field.

A note received by the company in 2010 had urged its employees to be more careful, he said and he mistakenly thought Areva would evacuate its personnel from the area at the time.

A personal request to be transferred had been granted in August 2010 but his departure was delayed so that a replacement could be trained.

Dol says local fighting between Tuareg insurgents and government forces coupled with French airstrikes increased the danger for the hostages.

Another hostage, Michel Germaneau, was killed in July 2010, illustrating the increasingly tense situation at the time.

When asked about the conditions of his capitvity, Dol said most of the time they were blindfolded and tied up, sleeping on the floor. Treated like slaves, they were frequently subjected to false executions with the jailers firing just above their heads. Sometimes they were left outside in 60°C heat.

In February 2012 Dol and fellow captive Daniel Larribe tried to escape.

"I said to myself, there will be freedom or death, but the essential is that this situation comes to an end," he recalls. "For two months we stored spare food in our clothes. We left clues to suggest we had gone in one direction when, in fact, we'd gone in another. We walked through the night for 30kms and met a camel driver whose son ratted on us. From that point on, we went from being slaves to being treated like animals."

Dol says he now needs to know the truth behind what lead up to their release so he can rebuild his life and move on.

"I'm still fighting to be properly compensated. I was promised 26 euros per day of captivity but the hostages from Jolo [in the Philippnes] for example, kidnapped for three months in 2000, were given substantially more than us."

"Did we suffer less than they did? It's ridiculous after everything we've been through to have to negotiate like market traders. I don't want to be anybody's hostage any more."

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