Freed US reporter’s Dad praises son’s noble cause

JOINVILLE-LE-PONT, France (AP) — The overjoyed father of the American journalist freed by Islamic
militants said Monday that his son and others who venture into dangerous lands like Syria deserve praise
for wanting to "bear witness … tell the truth about what’s going on."

Michael Padnos, who lives on a boat outside Paris, said in an interview with The Associated Press that
the interminable search and wait for his son had been like "hunting for bats in a dark, black
cave."

Theo Padnos spoke to his mother in Boston Sunday night "for less than a minute" but said he was
"happy to be back in the civilized world and see some girls," according to the father’s
account.

An unidentified American with the journalist initially spoke with Padnos’ mother, Nancy Curtis, but told
her that "he is too upset to talk … right now." He called her in the evening, according to
the father.

It wasn’t clear when Padnos would return home to Boston. He was apparently in Tel Aviv, where he was
driven after being released Sunday in the Golan Heights, a week after the beheading of another American
journalist, James Foley, an act that was videotaped and posted on the Internet.

His family said they believe their son was captured in October 2012, shortly after crossing into Syria.

He was held by Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, according to U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry. The al-Qaida-linked group is fighting the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

Michael Padnos brushed aside delays in his son’s return.

"They say they’re going to bring him back when he’s ready to travel," Padnos said.

"The main thing is he’s safe … That’s the only thing that counts for me," he said, calling
his son Theophilus, his birth name.

Theo Padnos changed his name to Peter Theo Curtis before leaving for Syria some two years ago for safety
reasons, his father said, noting he had written a book "Undercover Muslim" after investigating
the secretive Islamist world in Yemen, pretending to be a deeply religious Muslim.

The journalist’s father said the risky life of his son, whom he described as an "itinerant
journalist," made him fearful.

But "you can only respect those people (journalists) for doing it."

"Your heart’s in your mouth while you bite your tongue … but it’s noble and worthy" to do as
his son did, he said.

Beyond the relief and the joy, questions remain, notably how Padnos was freed, and whether ransom in any
form was involved. It is a U.S. policy not to pay ransom.

Michael Padnos said Qatar’s involvement was crucial.

"The government that has been the intermediary in this has been Qatar, and Qatar has said that they
had him released on a humanitarian basis without the payment of any ransom," Padnos said. "I
don’t know any more than that."

Betsy Sullivan, a cousin of Curtis, said earlier other intermediaries involved in negotiations threatened
the family and made ransom demands of varying amounts. The family said that Qatari representatives
assured them that no money was paid out.

Foley’s Islamic State captors had demanded $132.5 million (100 million euros) from his parents and
political concessions from Washington. Neither obliged, authorities say.

The journalist’s father praised the U.S. government and other nations who helped procure freedom for his
son. He wished the same outcome for dozens of others held captive in Syria and elsewhere.

"It’s just a very chaotic situation over there. There’s no clear lines of authority. There are no
clear people in charge. It’s unclear what’s going on. That’s what is so awful about the last two
years," he said. "You know, I felt as if I was hunting for bats in a dark black cave."

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