Saturday 20 January 2018

Dutch journalist set free by Colombia rebels tells of 'very hard' captivity

Two Dutch journalists have been freed in Colombia
Two Dutch journalists have been freed in Colombia

A Dutch journalist has told of his "very hard" experience after he and a colleague were freed unharmed following almost a week held captive by leftist rebels in Colombia .

Derk Bolt said he and Eugenio Follender were treated "almost like friends" but told of difficult conditions in the jungle during long marches.

Mr Bolt said the two men were treated well, suffering only a few scratches from 14-hour marches to evade security forces who mounted a massive search.

He told Colombia's Caracol radio that when they were first stopped the reporters thought it was a robbery, as their captors demanded they turn over cameras.

Then they were shuttled from safe house to safe house before eventually taking refuge in the jungle.

"It was very hard, but the people who took us captive were very warm and treated us with lots of respect, almost like friends," Mr Bolt said.

"They always told us our lives weren't in danger."

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said the pair "are doing relatively well under the circumstances."

He said he spoke by phone to the journalists shortly after their release.

He said: "Bolt was ... very relieved. They have a long journey through the jungle ahead of them. We are doing all we can to bring them back to the Netherlands as soon as possible."

Mr Bolt and Mr Follender were seized almost a week ago by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) while reporting in the volatile Catatumbo region, near the border with Venezuela.

Mr Bolt is host of a Dutch television show called Spoorloos (Without a Trace) and Mr Follender is a cameraman for the show, which attempts to help people find their long-lost relatives.

"We are incredibly happy and relieved," the show said in a Facebook post. "We are grateful to the ministry of foreign affairs. They have done everything, in The Hague and Bogota, to get Derk and Eugenio home safely."

The ELN, Colombia's last major guerrilla army with about 1,500 troops, said the journalists were detained preventively because they had entered a conflict zone where Colombia's military often operates covertly.

"Our first duty is to preserve the life of the communities and people that enter these territories, not exposing them" to danger, members of the group negotiating a peace deal with the government said.


Press Association

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