AFP: A Japanese student taken hostage in Iran is still being held in the country but is in good health, an Iranian official told a visiting special envoy from Tokyo, media reported Thursday. TEHRAN (AFP) A Japanese student taken hostage in Iran is still being held in the country but is in good health, an Iranian official told a visiting special envoy from Tokyo, media reported Thursday.
Itsunori Onodera, the senior vice foreign minister, is in Iran for talks with Iranian officials to win the release of 23-year-old Satoshi Nakamura who was captured by bandits last week in the country’s restive southeast.
According to the state broadcaster’s website, Onodera held talks with Mohammad Ali Shahidi, the deputy foreign minister in charge of consular affairs, after his arrival in Iran on Wednesday.
“The latest information we received regarding the situation of the Japanese tells us he is healthy and that he has not been taken out of the country,” Shahidi told the envoy.
“We hope that with these efforts he will be freed as soon as possible.”
Onodera also met Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who expressed hope that Nakamura would be released soon, state media reported.
Nakamura had been travelling alone in southeastern Iran in a region close to the border with Pakistan after teaching Japanese and English in Nepal with a volunteer group.
He was kidnapped on October 8 as he headed from his hotel for the ancient mud-built citadel of Bam, which was one of Iran’s main tourist attractions until it was destroyed in a 2003 earthquake that killed 31,000 people.
A trickle of foreign tourists still visit the area, despite warnings from governments about the risks of travel in the region.
The interior ministry has warned Japan not to interfere in the delicate process of releasing the hostage, saying the hostage takers could take advantage of this.
A bandit named Esmail Shahbakhsh has been blamed for the kidnapping and is asking for the release of his arrested son in exchange for Nakamura, according to Iranian officials.
The bandit is said to be the same man whose gang in August abducted two Belgian tourists who were later freed.
The female Belgian tourist held was freed shortly after her capture but it took a month to win the release of her male partner from the hands of the bandits.
Japan has historically had cordial relations with Iran, both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.