Freed U.S. reporter’s dad praises son’s noble cause

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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 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.

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.

Theo Padnos was held by 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.

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.

He praised the American government and others nations who “cooperated” for the good work in freeing his son.

The United Nations said it had been contacted by the U.S. and Qatar over the weekend to facilitate a handover.

Associated Press

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