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Jacobsen Would Go Back to Beirut if This Meant Freedom for Other Hostages

November 14, 1986|RAY PEREZ | Times Staff Writer

Former hostage David P. Jacobsen said Thursday he will travel to London with two other former captives of Shia Muslim terrorists in an attempt to help with negotiations for the release of the remaining Americans being held in Lebanon.

At his first news conference since returning home to Huntington Beach, Jacobsen, 55, said he does not plan to return to Lebanon but added that he would go there if it meant the safe release of more hostages.

"My goal is to do everything I can to get those guys out," he said. "If Terry Waite (the Anglican envoy and hostage negotiator) felt that my going back to Beirut would help free the hostages, I would go immediately without fear."

Knew Nothing of Deal

Jacobsen refused to talk about the negotiations that led to his release. He did say, however, that he knew nothing about the arms deals between the Reagan Administration and the government of Iran.

"I do not know the details that led to my release," he said. "It is my understanding there were a great many people involved, that it resulted from the cooperation of many parties and that it is a very complicated situation."

Jacobsen, speaking to scores of reporters crowded into a hotel ballroom in the city of Orange, said he had not been mistreated during his 531 days of captivity.

He said he was grateful to President Reagan for his release and was convinced that the Administration had worked diligently to ease the plight of the hostages in Beirut.

'President Did Care'

"The President of the United States did care from the moment the first hostage was taken," Jacobsen said.

He cautioned the news media to refrain from speculation about negotiations that led to his freedom and the release of two other former hostages--the Rev. Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian minister who was released on Sept. 14, 1985, and Father Lawrence M. Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest who was freed on July 26.

"Mere speculation can be misinterpreted and frighten the people who hold the (other) hostages. Please, please be patient," said Jacobsen, who was director of the American University Hospital in Beirut when he was taken hostage May 28, 1985.

"I refuse to speculate. After the hostages are released, I will speculate," he added.

Huddles With Son

Flanked by his son, Eric, and the Rev. Harold G. Hultgren, an Episcopal priest he described as an "old, dear friend," Jacobsen repeatedly refused to comment about Reagan's reported negotiations with Iran to help secure his release. At times, when reporters tried to get him to answer questions relating to the Iranian negotiations, he huddled with his son before politely declining to answer.

But in an impassioned plea to one of his Shia Muslim captors, whom he called "Haj," Jacobsen called for the release of two Americans still being held hostage: Terry A. Anderson, 39, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, and Thomas Sutherland, dean of the agriculture school of American University in Beirut.

"I trust, Haj, that you will release Terry Anderson and Tom Sutherland and assist in the release of those held hostage by others," he said. "In my conversations with you about democracy, peace, education and the history of your people, my feelings have not changed.

"I pray that the poor people you represent will someday enjoy the benefits that every human being deserves."

Five Americans Missing

Jacobsen, Jenco and Weir were held hostage by a pro-Iranian group known as Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War), which also claims to be holding Anderson and Sutherland. Three other Americans-- Frank H. Reed, 53, of Malden, Mass.; Joseph J. Cicippio, 56, of Norristown, Pa., and Edward A. Tracy, 55, of Rutland, Vt.--are believed to be held by other extremist groups in Lebanon.

Jacobsen, who was freed Nov. 2 and returned to Huntington Beach on Sunday, said he will travel to London "as soon as possible." Eric Jacobsen said his father would fly to London on Sunday after services at Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.

In London, a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert A. K. Runcie, said that Runcie will meet with the former hostages, Waite and representatives of Presbyterian, Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches on Monday to "discuss further steps in the humanitarian efforts to seek the release of hostages held in Lebanon."

Angered by Broadcast

During his captivity, Jacobsen said, he was angered by a televised broadcast of a videotaped message in which he offered his sympathy to the widow of a hostage believed to have been killed. He saw a tape of the broadcast while still being held hostage, he said.

In it, he said, a reporter speculated that the hostages might have intended to use the videotape as a way to send a coded message back to the United States. There was no coded message, he said, and he called the TV report "gross, irresponsible speculation."

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