Japanese hostage death leaves Jordanian authorities with tough decision

Japanese hostage death leaves Jordanian authorities with tough decision
One of Jordan's most high-profile prisoners has been mooted as a bargaining chip for the release of a Jordanian pilot being held by IS.
2 min read
26 January, 2015
Protests took place in Jordan last month to demand the release of the pilot [Getty]

Hopes for the release of Moaz al-Kasabi, a Jordanian pilot held by the Islamic State group, were dampened on Saturday, as the armed group proposed a deal for the release of a Japanese prisoner instead.

To guarantee the release of the Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis) demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who was sentenced to death in Jordan for her part in a series of bombings in Amman.

It is thought that the Jordanian authorities had hoped to use Rishawi as a bargaining chip for Kasabi, rather than Goto.

In a video released by IS, Goto announced his colleague, Haruna Yukawa, had been killed and that the militants now wanted Rishawi in exchange for the remaining Japanese hostage.

     The Jordanian authorities had reportedly hoped to use Rishawi as a bargaining chip with the militants.

The video, which Japanese officials said was authentic, puts Amman in a challenging position over what to do with their Iraqi prisoner.

Tough decision

Kasabi's jet was said to be shot down over Raqqa, before the pilot was captured by IS fighters. Kasabi had been taking part in a sortie in the area, as part of a campaign of airstrikes by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

A Jordanian Salafi leader said that there might a chance of freeing Kasabi if Rishawi were released.

However, neither the Jordanian authorities nor the Islamic State group have made it clear whether the offer is valid. A prisoner swap would be a hugely popular move in Jordan.

Jordanian officials, meanwhile, have tried to enforce a news blackout on the case, and are not commenting on any deal.

Yasuhide Nakayama, an assistant to the Japanese foreign minister, is said to be running an operations room in the Japanese Embassy in Amman to secure the release of the remaining Japanese hostage.

Prisoner number one

Rishawi was sentenced to death by the Jordanian State Security Court, effectively a martial court, for her alleged role in the 2005 Amman hotel bombings. 

The Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombings, which targeted three hotels in the Jordanian capital and killed 60 people. Rishawi's suicide bomb belt failed to detonate at the Radisson SAS hotel.

The 45-year-old has been held in solitary confinement in Jwaideh Correctional Center in southwestern Amman. She refuses to leave her cell and mingle with the other female detainees, security sources told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.