Bhubaneswar, April 11 (IANS) The Maoists holding an Italian hostage since March 14 Wednesday reiterated that he will be released only after the Odisha government fulfils its promises on their demands.
Sabyasachi Panda, a rebel leader known as Sunil, said in his latest audio-message aired by local television channels here that his group had not received the copy of the agreement the government signed with mediators, but was aware of its content.
He said the agreement did discuss the 13 demands made by the Maoists and welcomed the government's decision to initiate the process to free five prisoners - although he had demanded the release of seven.
He said Italian Bosusco Paolo's release will be easy after the government fulfils its promise, but did not announce an extension of its deadline, which actually expired Tuesday evening.
The statement from Panda came a day after a court acquitted his wife Subhashree Das of involvement in a police-Maoist gunbattle in 2003. She was one of those whose release had been sought by the Maoists.
The fate of Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka who has been in the captivity of another group of rebels since March 24 also remains uncertain as the rebels refused to release him unless their demands were met.
Jagabandhu, the spokesperson of the group in a statement written in Telugu sent to reporters here, said: "We will not release Hikaka unless the government releases all the 30 persons we demanded."
While Paolo was abducted by the Odisha unit of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) from Kandhamal district, Hikaka was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee from Koraput district.
Both the groups were more or less making the same demands, which included a ban on tourism in tribal areas, a halt on the state's operations against the Maoists and the release of several prisoners.
The state government announced it would facilitate the release of 23 prisoners, including eight Maoists, to secure the release of Hikaka and five other prisoners in exchange for the release of the Italian.
But the kidnappers insisted for the release of 30 people in exchange for the legislator.
Home Secretary U.N. Behera said that the government was examining the cases registered against the remaining people and no decision had been taken.
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