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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July 25, 2011

The Daily Star - Estonian ex-Lebanon hostage enjoys taste of freedom - July 25, 2011

Jagomagi talks to the media at Talinn airport after his release on July 15, while his wife Annika Aas looks on.
Jagomagi talks to the media at Talinn airport after his release on July 15, while his wife Annika Aas looks on.

TALLINN: Over a week after the end of a four-month kidnap ordeal in Lebanon, Estonian Jaan Jagomagi is getting used to the sweet taste of freedom.
"My daughter, who's three and a half, has greeted me every morning, saying 'It's going to be a wonderful day Daddy, because you're home'," said Jagomagi, looking relaxed in his Baltic homeland's capital Tallinn.
"I'm a different person in many ways. You appreciate life, and little things in that life, much more after an experience like that," the 35-year-old IT manager told AFP.
Jagomagi and six fellow Estonians flew home on July 15 less than 24 hours after being set free.
The men were kidnapped at gunpoint on March 23 in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
They started their cycling holiday in Lebanon's capital Beirut on March 15. After three days they went to Syria, returning to Lebanon five days later.
They were abducted shortly after crossing the border.
Kidnappings have been rare in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, when some 100 foreigners, mostly Americans and West Europeans, were snatched.
The case is shrouded in mystery, but nine Lebanese and foreigners were detained by Lebanese security in the months before the release.
The previously-unknown Movement for Renewal and Reform is thought to have been responsible.
Jagomagi said they spoke English with their eight Kalashnikov-wielding guards who said they were Sunni Muslims.
"This hasn't changed my attitude towards Islam. I think there are no bad religions but just bad people who misuse religion to push their agenda," he said.
Two were university graduates while some seemed uneducated.
Jagomagi said they were treated relatively well. They were not chained, could move around the room where they were held, and kept together.
"We were first taken to some house in Lebanon, but within a few hours we were in Syria, where we were kept for 40 days," Jagomagi said.
They were blindfolded during all transfers.
In Syria, their cell was a 30-meter-square toolshed, and they could peek out. "There were cherry trees, we saw farmers with sheep," he said.
They had no idea they were in Syria until a captor said they were off back to Lebanon.
"We were in Lebanon again for 42 days, and then a different location in Syria until July 14, when we were driven to an empty place in Lebanon with the order to call a particular number after sunrise," he said.
Using a cellphone from the kidnappers, they rang what turned out to be the Estonian police.
They were whisked to France's Beirut embassy, showered, ate and bowed to reporters from the balcony, before taking an Estonian government-charted plane home.
Estonia turned to France and other European Union and NATO allies for help freeing the men because the ex-Soviet nation of 1.3 million has a thin Middle East diplomatic presence.
The kidnappers told the men they had not realized their nationality and had aimed snare French, U.S. or British tourists, Jagomagi said.
In Internet videos on April 20 and May 20, the Estonians pleaded for help without relaying any demands.
Rumors abound that their freedom was bought.
"The kidnappers told us on the first evening they needed money for their political actions," he said.
"The food was good the first week but later it seemed their finances were running out and we mostly got bread, two slices of cheese and a tomato twice a day."
At one point, the kidnappers said Saudi Arabia was arranging a ransom, but then that that was wrong, and the "big boss" was in Iraq making a deal.
"They told us the sum discussed at the end was ten times smaller than the first request. Whether it was paid and how much, we don't know," he said.

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