Kidnapped Priest Fr Tom Uzhunalil 'Ignored Government Orders' Not To Go To Yemen
A senior member of India's government has accused a kidnapped priest of ignoring advice not to go to Yemen.
Father Tom Uzhunnalil was captured in the attack on an old people's home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden last March.
The gunmen murdered four nuns and 12 others. One nun escaped after she hid in a refrigerator.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised by political opponents for failing to secure Uzhunnalil's release, according to World Watch Monitor.
According to India's deputy foreign minister, M J Akbar, Uzhunnalil, an Indian citizen who had lived and worked in Yemen for 14 years, returned on this occasion after "ignoring the central government's orders not to go".
He spoke out after a five-minute video message was published on December 24 on YouTube showing Uzhunnalil, apparently ill and appearing to read from a script.
In it he said: "If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value."
He said his kidnappers had reached out to Modi and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee without success and also criticised the Catholic Church for not doing more to secure his release.
An earlier video published last year that showed a blindfolded man being assaulted by off-screen assailants.
In a statement last night, Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, defended the Church. He said there has been a video released on social media networks around Christmas claiming to show Uzhunnalil. While he admitted the person in the video bore a "close likeness" to Uzhunnalil, he said "the source of the video, the date of its creation and the circumstances under which it was recorded are unknown".
"Even though we have no information about Fr Tom's present whereabouts, we have strong indications to believe that he is still alive.
"Since the day of the abduction of Fr Tom, the Church has made countless appeals from the highest levels to secure his release as well as made concrete efforts by way of working in close collaboration with both international and local diplomatic channels."
Pope Francis appealed for the release of the priest last April. He said: "In the hope given us by the Risen Christ, I renew my appeal for the liberation of all persons seized in areas of armed conflict: in particular, I desire to remember the Salesian priest, Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped at Aden in Yemen this past March 4."
Bishop Hinder has also led constant calls for prayer throughout for Uzhunnalil.
"We thank all those around the world who have given us their support during these difficult months," he said. "We request the faithful not to be drawn into a cycle of disturbance and spreading unconfirmed reports on social media but to continue their prayers for Fr Tom as the channels try to secure his release."