US denies threatening family of executed reporter James Foley | News | DW | 13.09.2014
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US denies threatening family of executed reporter James Foley

The US government has denied threatening the family of executed reporter James Foley with charges of supporting terrorism if they attempted to raise a ransom for their son. US policy forbids the paying of ransoms.

The reporter's mother, Diane Foley, told US TV network CNN that she felt that her family's efforts to save her son were an "annoyance" to the government, adding "it didn't seem to be in our strategic interest, if you will."

Foley claimed her family was also told no prisoners would be exchanged for James Foley, nor would the government take military action. They were allegedly also warned not to go to the media and "trust that it would be taken care of."

"As an American I was embarrassed and appalled," Foley said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday (12.09.2014) that the government had been "in regular touch with the Foley family" to give updates and to communicate that the captured reporter's "rescue continued to be a priority of this administration."

Earnest also reaffirmed that long-standing US policy forbids paying ransoms, because doing so "only puts other Americans in a position where they're at even greater risk." He referred questions about whether the Foleys would have been prosecuted had they attempted to pay a ransom to the Justice Department.

He said US President Barack Obama used "every tool at our disposal" to try to free Foley, including a "high-risk" military rescue attempt.

Kerry 'taken aback'

Secretary of State John Kerry also responded to Diane Foley's remarks, saying he was "really taken aback," and that he was "totally unaware and would not condone anybody" at the State Department making any threatening statements.

"I and others in the government worked as hard as we know how to reach out to country after country - dozens of countries were talked to in an effort to try to create some avenue of success," Kerry said. "Tragically, obviously, we were not successful in finding them. So my heart goes out to the family."

Kerry's spokeswoman Marie Harf admitted that government officials tried "to help the family understand what our laws are about... paying ransom to terrorists." But she insisted "this department would never, and did not ever, intend to, nor do we think we ever did anything that we would consider threatening."

The 40-year-old freelance reporter's death was revealed August 19 in a video released by Islamic State militants, in which he was seen being beheaded.

IS said his killing was in response to US air strikes. A week later it released a second video showing the beheading of another American journalist, Steven Sotloff.

The Foley family on Friday made a plea for donations to build a foundation to fund the good works he supported in his lifetime, writing: "Jim did not die in vain. Please help us build on his memory."

"Jim and his family, like many other US hostages and their families, have experienced the devastating consequences of inconsistent, opaque, and unaccountable policies of governments in hostage situations. This has to change," the site says.

bk/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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