The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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December 10, 2009

December 10, 2009 - The Daily Star - Australian Ex-Hostage Feared He Would Die in Somalia

Australian ex-hostage feared he would die in Somalia

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Talek Harris

Agence France Presse

SYDNEY, Australia: Freed hostage Nigel Brennan Wednesday admitted that he regretted ever visiting Somalia and feared he would never survive his brutal, 15-month ordeal. Looking frail and gaunt after returning to Australia, the photojournalist trembled and fought back tears as he recounted the psychological trauma of being pistol-whipped and spending months chained up in isolation.

“If I can in any way explain my rationale for being in Somalia at all and putting myself in harm’s way, it was to highlight the plight of others not so fortunate,” Brennan told reporters.

“In hindsight it was a risk I maybe shouldn’t have taken and I’m personally distressed at the grief and heartache I have caused, but my motives were honorable,” he said.

Brennan and Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout were snatched near Mogadishu in August 2008 as they travelled to camps housing refugees who had fled fighting in the lawless Somali capital.

The 38-year-old Brennan, who returned to Australia on Sunday, said there were times during the ordeal when he was not sure whether he was alive or dead.

“It’s hard to believe I’m standing here safe on Australian soil. I must confess there were times when I wondered if this moment would ever come,” he said.

“I’m sure at times [my family’s] pain and suffering was much worse than my own. At least I knew I was alive – although sometimes even I questioned that.”

A British-based hostage negotiator has said that the pair were treated harshly after a thwarted escape bid in January, when they loosened bricks to break out of the house where they were being held but were then recaptured on the steps of a mosque.

In a phone call to AFP in April, a desperate Brennan warned that his health was “extremely poor and deteriorating” and begged for his family to scrape together money for a ransom.

Australian media say Brennan was isolated in a dark room and surrounded by armed men, and suffered severe abdominal pains and passed blood, probably due to contaminated food and water.

Brennan’s family sold property and held barbecues in a frantic bid to raise ransom funds, and received hefty donations from millionaire entrepreneur Dick Smith and Greens Senator Bob Brown.

Brennan said he had undergone counseling sessions with an Australian Defense Force expert psychologist after being freed late last month, and appealed for “healing” time away from the media.

“I want everyone to know I’m getting better every day but I find I’m still trying to come to terms with the enormity of it all. I still have a way to go,” he said.

Brennan also paid tribute to Lindhout, who was expected to return to Canada this week.

“Even though for the most part we were completely isolated from each other, just knowing you were through the wall or down the corridor was an unbelievable comfort,” he said.

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