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January 20, 2022

Case concerning the kidnapping of Romanian journalists in Iraq could be declassified. Ohanesian: Basescu hiding serious illegalities

Traian Basescu and Vasile Blaga risk being prosecuted in the case concerning the kidnapping of Romanian journalists in Iraq. Ovidiu Ohanesian (photo L), one of the journalists kidnapped, asks for the case dossier to be declassified and claims that the prosecutor’s report includes evidence that proves that the former president is hiding serious illegalities.

“The immediate declassification of the Iraq kidnapping case without any kind of reserves and the complete declassification of the Armament case is necessary,” Ovidiu Ohanesian stated on Romania TV.

The journalist also claims that Traian Basescu is hiding the illegalities in which Omar Hayssam, Mohamad Munaf and Dr. Yassin were involved in, the three allegedly being engaged in arms trafficking.

“The Romanian state along with people of this ilk – Omar Hayssam, Mohamad Munaf, Dr. Yassin, the intelligence services’ people – made hundreds, billions out of international arms trafficking. These are things of unprecedented seriousness. They are classified, hushed up, hidden by Traian Basescu and the entire leadership of intelligence services at that time, the leadership of powerful state institutions. These are documents in the Armament case, featuring concrete data on ships, names, the friends of Hayssam, signed by SRI, data on how they were carrying bombs,” Ovidiu Ohanesian stated on Romania TV.

Traian Basescu and Vasile Blaga will find out on May 13 whether the judges will restart the criminal prosecution in the case concerning the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq in March 2005.


Dramatic moments of the hostages’ crisis


Three Romanian journalists, Marie Jeanne Ion, Deputy Editor-in-chief for Prima TV, operator Sorin Dumitru Miscoci, from the same TV station, and Eduard Ovidiu Ohanesian, a reporter for the daily paper Romania Libera were reported missing in the evening of March 28, 2005, in Baghdad, together with their companion Mohammad Munaf, Iraq-based American citizen. Prior to the abduction, they had spent approximately a week in the Iraqi capital, in order to interview the Iraqi Prime Minister and the new President of Iraq.

After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was notified on the possible abduction of journalists, MAE, as well as Romania’s major intelligence services, created a crisis cell to manage the situation.

After returning from his visits in Iraq and Afghanistan, on March 29, 2005, President Traian Basescu declared that he was seeking solutions in order to solve the situation. He summoned the Operation Group created at the Cotroceni Palace, under his coordination.

The first images of the Romanian journalists and their guide were broadcasted by the TV station Al Jazeera in Qatar on the third evening after they went missing, on March 30, 2005. In the video recording, Marie Jeanne Ion made a statement that kidnappers did not ask for money in order to let them go. On March 31, 2005, the management issued an announcement demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the three Romanian journalists and of their Iraqi-American companion. It was for the first time Al Jazeera took a stand in an abduction case.

The situation of journalists kidnapped in Iraq reached a critical point on April 22, 2005, after the Pan-Arabian television broadcasted new images of them. The video tape included an ultimatum to Romanian authorities, demanding the withdrawal of Romanian troops from Iraq in four days after the broadcast of the message, otherwise the journalists would be murdered. It was the first political solicitation expressed by kidnappers, since March 28, 2005, and the second message released during the 26 days that passed after the journalists disappeared. The recording showed the three journalists handcuffed and separated from their guide, who was also wearing handcuffs on his wrists.

Marie Jeanne Ion made an appeal to the Romanian Government and Presidency, inviting people to attend protests and to demand their release, in order to pressure Romanian authorities to withdraw their troops from Iraq. In a separate message, Mohammad Munaf makes a plea to American president George W. Bush, asking him to intervene for his release. It is the first time since the disappearance of the journalists that kidnappers identified themselves: the images show the name of the group, “Mu’adh Bin Jebel’s squads”.

On April 26, 2005, a second critical moment was reached, when the TV station Al Jazeera broadcasted shocking images of the four hostages: Sorin Miscosi wore orange-coloured clothes, which meant, according to previous cases of kidnapping, that he was selected for execution, while Ovidiu Ohanesian is shaved in the head. Before these images were released, the editorial team of Prima TV received an audio recording of the three journalists making a plea to the Romanian nation to pressure officials to withdraws troops from Iraq.

The crisis of Iraqi hostages ended on May 22, 2005, when the Presidential Administration announced that “the three Romanian citizens, Marie Jeanne Ion, Sorin Miscoci and Ovidiu Eduard Ohanesian – as well as Iraq-based American citizen Mohammad Munaf are, starting at 1.44 pm, in the hands of Romanian authorities”.

In his first press statement after the release of Iraqi hostages, on May 22, 2005, Romanian President Traian Basescu thanked their families, journalists, commenters, intelligence services from the country and abroad, as well as American officials in Iraq and the Arab community in the country that contributed to solving the crisis. He mentioned that the release of journalists was completed 100% by the intelligence services of the Romanian state, “in an outstanding cooperation of the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Romanian Intelligence Service and the Intelligence Department of the Army”.

The Head of the State pointed out tha the Romanian state did not negotiate its foreign politics and did not pay ransom for the journalists. Moreover, Traian Basescu invited the Romanian media to show some discretion in the next few days towards the three journalists released after almost two months in captivity.

In the evening of the same day, the TV station Al Jazeera broadcasted a final video recording presenting the four hostages and one of the kidnappers announcing in Arabic that they would release the prisoners at the request of Saudi Sheik Salman Fahd al’Oda and of the Arabic and Islamic Community in Romania.

After 55 days of captivity in Iraq, the Romanian journalists were brought back to Romania on May 23, 2005.


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