by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MADRID, Spain – Two Spanish journalists that were detained for over six months in Syria finally arrived back in Spain on Sunday.
El Mundo staff correspondent Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were both reunited with friends and family on the tarmac of the of the Torrejon de Ardoz military airport in Madrid.
The two journalists had were kidnapped back in September at the Tal Abyad checkpoint in the Syrian province of Raqqa. They were close to the Turkish border, and had been prepared to leave Syria after covering the situation for two weeks. The kidnappers were thought to be members of a group linked to al Qaeda and Syria and had not revealed their demands to free the two journalists.
“We want to thank everyone who has worried about us and who has made it possible for us to return home, and as you can see, we are perfectly well,” Espinosa stated at the airport on Sunday.
The two men later went to the El Mundo newsroom where they were greeted with ovation and tears of joy. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry for what we have made you go through,” Espinosa stated to those gathered in the newsroom.
El Mundo had reported early Sunday that the two men had been freed in Syria, but it did not delve into any details of their release.
Espinosa, 49, and Garcia, 42, have both traveled to Syria many times, often together. Garcia had been traveling with Espinosa even though he was not on assignment for El Mundo. Espinosa was previously kidnapped while covering the conflict in Sierra Leone, and Garcia was kidnapped in 2012 in Syria for nearly two weeks. In 2012, Espinosa was in a make-shift press center in Baba Amr in the province of Homs, where correspondent Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times of London and French photographer Remi Ochlik were both killed.
The most recent kidnappers of the two stated that they wanted to make sure that the two men were not spies. Espinosa and Garcia had been traveling with four fighters from the Free Syrian Army, who were also kidnapped, but they were released twelve days later.
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Spanish Journalists Home After Syria Ordeal – 30 March 2014
BBC News – Syria Crisis: Freed Spanish Journalists Back in Spain – 30 March 2014
CNN – Report: 2 Spanish Journalists Kidnapped in Syria Arrive Home – 30 March 2014
Fox News – 2 Spanish Journalists Freed From Captivity in Syria – 30 March 2014