TEHRAN (AFP) – The kidnappers of a Japanese tourist in Iran have demanded the release of a relative on death row in return for the hostage’s freedom, a local police chief was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Satoshi Nakamura, 23, was abducted in October in a region of southeast Iran bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Kerman province police chief Mohammad Reza Eshaghi said the kidnappers had also seized a local Friday prayers leader in the town of Fahraj in the area.
“These two cases have been claimed by the same group. The kidnappers have demanded the release of a relative who has been sentenced to death,” Eshaghi was quoted as saying by Tehran Emrouz newspaper.
“The system will not give in to their extortion,” he said. “And of course prices have to be paid in order to have authority over society.”
Nakamura was abducted as he headed from his hotel for the ancient mud-built citadel of Bam in Kerman province. He had been travelling alone after teaching Japanese and English in Nepal with a volunteer group.
A trickle of foreign tourists still visits southeastern Iran, despite warnings from governments about the risks of travel in the region.
Officials have said Nakamura is now being held outside Iran in the border zone between its two eastern neighbours, and in early April the foreign ministry said Iran was making every effort to secure his release.
A bandit called Esmail Shahbakhsh, blamed for the kidnapping, wants the release of his arrested son in exchange for Nakamura, according to Iranian officials.
The bandit is said to be the same man whose gang last August abducted two Belgian tourists who were later freed.