McNaught believes information on Gaza kidnapping withheld [audio report]

Palestinian authorities have more information about the kidnap in Gaza of NZ cameraman Olaf Wiig and American reporter Steve Centanni than they are disclosing, Wiig's wife - broadcaster Anita McNaught - has claimed.

McNaught said Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had given her assurances Wiig, 36, and Centanni, 60, were safe but that some information officials had was not being shared.

"I think of the many, many meetings we've had in Gaza, and we've had many, that at least two of those meetings have contained people who have known a great deal more than they were prepared at that moment in time to tell us," she told National Radio.

McNaught welcomed support from local media in Gaza who had held a protest calling for the safe release of her husband and his colleague.

She said the kidnapping, from a TV van near the Palestinian security service headquarters, threatened the ongoing presence of journalists in Gaza, something journalists there knew as they joined in the demonstration.

"This protest by representatives from the likes of all journalists working in Gaza was really heartening."

Despite five days having passed since the kidnapping, McNaught was confident of her husband's safety.

"There is absolutely nothing to gain by hurting them. The pattern of these hostage takings has simply been that these people are taken as bargaining tools.

"They have no value if they are injured so they'll be taking good care of them."

Meanwhile, New Zealand diplomat Peter Rider, in Jerusalem and Gaza to help in the search, said that over the past day he had met with a senior member of the Fatah movement, the director of preventive security in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The kidnapping was the first involving foreigners in Gaza since Haniyeh's government was sworn in March.

"Essentially, cutting to the chase, none of the contacts we've had have any further information on the whereabouts or the people who carried out Olaf's kidnapping," Mr Rider said.

There were concerns for Wiig's and Centanni's safety but at least one other kidnapping had gone longer with no word from the captors.

"We would obviously have liked to have heard because the key to getting a resolution of this is to find out who the people are and get into some kind of dialogue with them."

Mr Rider said in the past two or three years there had been "dozens" of kidnappings in Palestine and nobody had been injured in them.

He believed everybody in the Palestinian Authority had been candid.

"They would like to be able to tell us more but they just don't have the information themselves.

"They are well aware that this doesn't look good for their image overseas."

Meanwhile, the brother of American Steve Centanni on Sunday appealed on Al Jazeera television for his release.

"I want his kidnappers to know that Steve is an honourable man who always tried to do what is right and that he respects Palestinian people and their culture," said a man identified by Al Jazeera as Centanni's brother but whose name was not given.

"We love him a lot and his health and life are your responsibility. We urge you to contact his family and to tell us he is alive and unharmed," said the man, who was flanked by two women, apparently from Centanni's family.

He spoke in English but his words were dubbed in Arabic.

- NZPA / REUTERS

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