"It was no holiday," say Italians kidnapped
TEHRAN, June 21 (AFP) - Three Italians held for a week by kidnappers
in southern Iran arrived here on Monday as the Iranian authorities denounced
their abductors as "enemies of the Islamic Revolution."
"We were neither beaten nor tied up, but it really wasn't a holiday,"
Lorenzo Termite, one of the three, told a press conference at Tehran airport.
"We never knew what could happen to us."
The three, employees of the Danieli steel works in the central city
of Yazd, were released on Sunday and arrived in Tehran by plane Monday
after spending the night in an apartment belonging to the police in Zahedan,
the capital of the province of Sistan-Baluchestan.
Termite, another engineer, Riccardo Pasinato, and technician Giuseppe
Zisa were seized on June 13 near the southern city of Kerman while on
a visit to an ancient fort in the town of Bam.
The three Italians, who were in relatively good health and planned
to remain in Iran, said they had been released without any violence after
an apparent "deal" between the police and the abductors.
The Jahan-e-Eslam newspaper, which is close to the government, said
the Italians were kidnapped by a certain "Sharbakhsh," the chief
of a gang in Sistan-Baluchestan province.
An Iranian intelligence ministry official denounced the kidnappers
on Monday as "enemies of the Islamic Revolution."
Speaking to the official IRNA news agency, the official, who was not
identified, said the security forces had "acted wisely and rapidly"
to secure the release of the three Italians.
The official added that the kidnapping "revealed new dimensions
of the plots hatched by enemies of the Islamic Revolution to misportray
the Islamic Republic as an unstable country.
"However, the issue finally turned out to be a point of strength
for the Islamic Republic," the official said, describing kidnapping
in Iran as a "rare" phenomenon.
The Italian ambassador to Iran, Ludovico Ortona, who welcomed the
three men at Tehran airport, also described the abduction as "extremely
rare" and said Iran "remains a hospitable and secure country."
Recounting the abduction, Termite said: "Everything happened
"Six men armed with Kalashnikovs and guns pushed us into their
car. Since their car wasn't big enough, they only took three of us,
leaving the other two behind."
"We were driving on a main road, then a side street and after
several hours we arrived in the desert where the kidnappers changed their
ordinary civilian clothing for traditional Baluchi dress," he said.
After three days, the Italians and their abductors arrived in a mountainous
region where they spent the nights outdoors wrapped in blankets.
"We asked them why we had been kidnapped, and they told us it
was simply for an exchange and that one of the members of their group,
Reza, had an uncle and a brother in the southern Iranian prison of Shiraz,"
They said they were released Sunday morning then driven in the early
afternoon to a police checkpoint by two of their abductors.