The United Nations and the European Union in Lebanon on Monday appealed for an immediate release of seven Estonian cyclists who were kidnapped in east Lebanon last March.
We appeal for an immediate release of the seven abducted Estonian nationals. The bikers came to Lebanon as tourists, with no ill intent. No purpose whatsoever is served by their continued detention, the joint EU-UN envoy’s statement said, according to Reuters.
This criminal act is a reminder of a dark part of Lebanon's history, which could threaten Lebanon's standing in the international community, the envoys said in the statement released after talks with officials at the Lebanese foreign ministry.
The seven Estonians were kidnapped on March 23 near the town of Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. They had crossed the border from Syria when they were on a cycling holiday.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has been asking other Arab governments for help to release their citizens.
An unknown group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and has demanded a ransom for their release.
Lebanese authorities till now have charged 11 people, for kidnapping the tourists at gunpoint and for shooting a security patrol, four the kidnappers are still at large.
Last week the cyclists appeared in a video saying their lives were in danger and asking the Estonian government to help them. One of the kidnapped men who appeared in the video was released last week said that the video was recorded last Monday. Today is the 16th of May, 2011; we have been in jail for 54 days... We are very tired and we are in great danger, he said in the video.
The Estonian foreign ministry said in a statement that they would continue their work with the Lebanese government.