Remarks by Spokesman for U.S. Hostages Held in Beirut
Following is the text of part of a statement read by Allyn B. Conwell, 39, of Houston, on behalf of the passengers of TWA Flight 847 who are still held hostage in Beirut. The text was transcribed from a tape broadcast by CBS News:
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Allyn Conwell. I’m from Houston, Tex. I am one of the hostages taken on Flight 847 that’s here now in Beirut.
I am speaking on behalf of my fellow 40 hostages who have elected me as their spokesman to make a brief press conference to advise our families, friends and loved ones of our welfare, and in that vein I’d like to read to you a list of persons whom I have personally visited this afternoon and can verify that they are in good health.
(He then read a list of the names).
These 37 men I have met with and can verify beyond any doubt that they are primarily in A-number-one health, they are getting adequate shelter, food, water, etc. In addition to these 37 people, who are being well cared for, is the pilot, the co-pilot and the navigator on the plane, but I did not personally meet with them today. It is my understanding that the press did meet with them yesterday.
We as a group do most importantly want to beseech President Reagan, and our fellow Americans, to refrain from any form of military or violent means as an attempt, no matter how noble or heroic, to secure our freedom. That would only cause, in our estimation, additional unneeded and unwanted deaths among innocent peoples. It is also our hope, now that we are pawns in this tense game of nerves, that the governments and peoples involved in this negotiations will allow justice and compassion to guide their way. We understand that Israel is holding as hostage a number of Lebanese people who undoubtedly have as equal a right and as strong a desire to go home as we do.
The Israeli government reportedly has a plan of releasing these people, in conjunction with the military withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon. We sincerely ask and pray that this task be expeditiously completed, especially now that the Israeli forces are south of Lebanon or almost out of this country.
In our minds and to a man, we condemn hijacking or terrorism of any sort or nature, irregardless of the perpetrator or the circumstances. But we do sincerely pray that the governments involved in this problem can put aside fear, anger and insult in the process of rectifying the wrongs committed to date.
Following are excerpts from the questions and answers:
Conwell, responding to a question that was not audible on the tape:
“What I will say is there is an abrupt change of attitude and very sincere difference in the way the people who are holding us now behave, relate to us and treat us. And I am told that they are indeed a different group of people. I have faith in that. I pray to God that’s correct.”
He was asked if the hostages’ present captors wanted to keep them alive, unlike the original hijackers.
“I think the people who originally hijacked us wanted to keep us alive or they would have blown that plane to pieces the minute they had the opportunity, and they did have that opportunity for several days. I certainly know that the people who are taking care of us now are doing a, I think, admirable job under the circumstances of providing for us.”
He was asked how the hostages were standing up under the psychological strain.
“We’re obviously distressed. We’re all under a tremendous amount of strain and tension and concern. . . .
“The people who were taken hostage, the men that I have visited with and talked with . . . agreed that the greatest terror of all--of all--was the helplessness of knowing that our families were living through a living hell of terror, in fear of losing us, in fear of losing our love, in fear of us dying.
“The people in general that are here are in good health, in good spirits. Certainly more so than I ever expected. . . .
“I am extremely proud of my fellow Americans, I am extremely proud of all of the guys here. I think they have done a hell of a job of standing up to these adverse conditions.”
Conwell was asked if he had a message for the government of Israel.
“First of all, I don’t feel that my future is in the hands of Israel. I think that my future--our future--is in the hands of all people who are involved in this who hopefully have good common sense.”
He was asked if he is disappointed with the U.S. government’s response.
“I am disappointed that we are not at home. I am disappointed that--I say this out of speculation because we’ve only had limited access to news . . . we’re not very happy with it. We’re disappointed.”