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They Trailed Us Along All Over Syria…”Because our governments were seeking to find us”

Pierre Piccini, a Belgian teacher who was held prisoner by jihadists in Syria for five months was freed last Sunday at the same time as an Italian Stampa reporter.

According to Pierre Piccini, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “has been dispersed” , except in Aleppo. During our interview he declared that “it was not the Syrian army that used poison gas on August 21st.”. He reports to Françoise Germain-Robin about the conditions in which he was detained.

He bases this declaration on a conversation that he says he overheard between FSA and Al Faruk officers, as the two reporters were held in the FSA central barracks in Baba Lawad. This assertion has however not been confirmed either by la Stampa or by Domenico Quirico.

HUMA: In whose hands were you held?

PICCINI: We crossed over into Lebanon on April 7th with the FSA who led us on towards Al Kusseir where the FSA betrayed us. That’s something dreadful to say because I have been a supporter of the Syrian opposition for over a year, but so they did. We left the Hezbollah-besieged town at night on April 8th. We had not driven more than half a mile when a pick-up truck suddenly blocked our way. Six guys armed with Kalashnikovs got out of the truck and kidnapped us. On looking back we saw that our driver was in cahoots with them. First they tried to have us believe that they were Hezbollah fighters. Whereas in fact they belonged to the katiba of Abou Omar, a vicious guy that enlisted loonies, bums who ransom people by passing themselves off for Islamist s. They held us prisoners during the two months that the siege of Al Kusseir lasted. In the night from the 4th to the 5th of June they ex-filtrated us through the mortar-firing Hezbollah lines. 5,000 to 10,000 people gathered to the North of the city, and then started a long two-day march without food or drink. We were handed over to the Al-Faruk structure from which our kidnappers took their orders They carted us all over Syria : Idlib, Alep, the Djebel, always on the run for our governments were trying to find us.

HUMA: Were you ill-treated?

PICCINI: It depended on the group. Some, like Al Nosra, would treat us decently. But they made no mystery of the frightful fate they hold in reserve for our world: the conquest of the West, of Spain to begin with, “a land of Islam”. Others were real fanatics. They would beat us, would call us “Christian dogs”, gave us soiled leftovers to eat. During the night from August 14th to the 15th, after we’d attempted to escape, they really beat us up. They cut off bits of our tongues and Domenico went through two sham executions.

HUMA: How did you get released?

PICCINI: They led us to the Lebanese border where Italian intelligence officers were waiting for us. But we know nothing about the negotiations led by Emma Bonino, who was very active.

Françoise Germain-Robin

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE in l’Humanité: “Ils nous ont trimballés dans toute la Syrie, car nos gouvernements nous cherchaient” by Françoise Germain-Robin

Translated Wednesday 11 September 2013, by Isabelle Métral

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