The families of murdered American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff are speaking out against the U.S. government for making their efforts to free their loved ones a “helpless” endeavour.
The parents of Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist who was kidnapped by militants in Syria, told Yahoo News on Friday that a member of the president’s National Security Council threatened them with criminal prosecution if they attempted to pay a ransom to get their son freed.
“The family felt completely and utterly helpless when they heard this,” Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff who is serving as a spokesman for his family, told Yahoo News. “The Sotloffs felt there was nothing they could do to get Steve out.”
Sotloff’s mother Shirley recorded an emotional video directly addressing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late August. Despite her plea for mercy, the group murdered her son one week later.
The claim that the government would bring charges against the Sotloff family echoes similar points made in a CNN interview with Jim Foley’s mother Diane, in which she said she was “embarrassed and appalled” by the U.S. government’s handling of her son’s case.
In the interview, Diane Foley listed things the U.S. government advised the family not to do, including not going to the media and not to raise a ransom since it would be illegal — “we might be prosecuted,” Foley said she was told. She also says the government told her it would not exchange prisoners or conduct a military action to go after him.
“We were just told to trust that he would be freed somehow, miraculously,” she said. “And he wasn’t, was he?”
Jim Foley, a freelance journalist who was working for GlobalPost in Syria, was brutally murdered in mid-August soon after the U.S. began airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq.
“It just made me realise that these people talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of someone abducted … ” Diane Foley told ABC News. “I’m sure [the U.S. official] didn’t mean it the way he said it, but we were between a rock and a hard place. We were told we could do nothing … meanwhile our son was being beaten and tortured every day.”
The U.S. military attempted a rescue operation in July to find Foley, Sotloff, and other hostages believed to be held near ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, although the special operations troops were unable to locate any of them. The Wall Street Journal reported the hostages were likely moved as little as 72 hours prior to the raid.
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