Dozens gathered in front of the Japanese Prime Minister’s official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday to call for the release of Kenji Goto, a journalist being held by the Islamic State, after his captors purportedly issued what they said was a final death threat.
The effort to free Goto and a captured Jordanian pilot, Lieutenant Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, gained urgency with the release of the apparent ultimatum late on Tuesday.
In the message, the extremists said the two hostages would be killed within 24 hours – late Wednesday night Japan time – unless Jordan freed Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terror attack on a hotel that killed 60 people.
Jordan’s information minister Mohammed al-Momani said on Wednesday that his government was ready to swap the Iraqi woman for al-Kaseasbeh, but his statement made no mention of Goto.
The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Jordan’s parliament, Bassam Al-Manasseer, has been quoted as saying that Jordan and Japan would not negotiate directly with the Islamic State group and would not free al-Rishawi for the Japanese hostage only.
In Tokyo, the mother of the Japanese hostage appealed publicly to Japan’s premier to save her son. Junko Ishido read to reporters her plea to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which she said she sent after both Abe and Japan’s main government spokesman declined to meet with her.
Although many in Japan are critical of the two men for going to Syria, Goto’s friends and supporters have launched a social media campaign calling for his release.
One man attending the vigil in Tokyo was Seigo Maeda, who told AP his son goes to the same school as Goto’s child.
“I have been trying to keep my hope and belief that Mr. Goto will come back,” he said.
Vigil organizer Akira Kawasaki said they were calling for an “immediate release and peaceful solution.”
Report complied with information from The Associated Press
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