Saturday's release of Beirut hostage Father Lawrence Martin Jenco could seriously endanger the three remaining American hostages held in Lebanon by Muslim extremists, the son of hostage David P. Jacobsen said Monday.
"It really adds to the urgency of this," Eric Jacobsen, 30, said at an afternoon press conference in Huntington Beach. "We have my father saying (on videotape) that this is the very last gesture of good will the captors will make."
Jenco, 51, was kidnaped in Beirut on Jan. 8, 1985. When he was released by his captors Saturday and driven to freedom in Syria, he carried with him a videotaped message from David Jacobsen, who chastised the Reagan Administration for not doing more to help the hostages.
The 55-year-old Huntington Beach resident was seized by six gunmen on May 28, 1985, as he walked from his residence in Beirut to the nearby American University Hospital, where he was director.
"You look at my father in that videotape, and he believes that his captors are going to kill him--no doubt about it," Eric Jacobsen said. "His captors must have made it clear to him that if the U.S. won't negotiate, he's a dead man."
Eric Jacobsen said he did not know that his father was on the videotape until he watched television news Saturday night. Even then, he said, as footage of his father was played, he wondered who the haggard man on the tape was.
"When they (announcers) said, 'It's David Jacobsen,' my wife and I almost fell out of our chairs," he said. "I didn't react to his appearance. I reacted to the manner of his presentation. I could sense his fatigue and his disappointment and his anger. It brought out the exact same feelings in me."
Eric Jacobsen said he met with White House and State Department officials on July 17 and was told that everything possible was being done to speed the safe return of his father and the other hostages--Jenco, Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, and Thomas Sutherland, dean of the school of agriculture at the American University of Beirut.
"I came away thinking that these people (officials) are doing a lot," he said. "But the tape on Saturday is 180 degrees opposite. Through my father, they (the captors) said that there have been several golden opportunities that the U.S. has passed on. . . . We just don't know who to believe. . . . It may be somewhere in the middle where the truth is."
During the hourlong press conference, Eric Jacobsen wore a POW-type bracelet emblazoned with his father's name, kidnap date and the biblical citation, "Hebrews 13:3." The verse reads: "Remember them that are in bounds as bound with them. . . ." "This (bracelet) is a shackle, just like my father wears, to remind me all the time that my father is imprisoned," he said. Bracelets bearing the names of hostages are being distributed by a Seattle-based Christian organization that plans to give them to President Reagan and members of Congress. The group is also pushing to have Reagan declare Thanksgiving of 1986 as a national day of prayer for the hostages, whether they are released by that time or not.
"They (the Reagan Administration) can say what they want publicly, but they'd better do something quickly to quietly negotiate," Eric Jacobsen said. "My father believes nothing is being done."