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Time To Speak For Hostage Release

Wed., July 3, 1996

For one year, she played by the rules. Kept a low profile. Said little. Worked hard at her teaching job. Hoped and prayed. But Jane Schelly is tired of the quiet. Her husband, Spokane psychologist Donald Hutchings, has been missing for a year now. It’s time to make some noise.

Schelly and Hutchings were both kidnapped a year ago on July 4 while hiking in the strife-torn province of Kashmir, a region as politically and philosophically divided as Bosnia. Schelly was released almost immediately. Her husband, and four other hostages, were not.

A group that calls itself Al-Faran killed one of the hostages and in the past year, there have been rumors that all the hostages are dead. The militant Muslim group seeks the separation of Kashmir from India, which is mostly Hindu. They have demanded the release of 15 political prisoners in exchange for the hostages.

Schelly is hopeful that her husband still lives. She is in India this week, attempting to talk to anyone who will listen - government leaders and those in contact with the rebels.

The strategy of saying little, patient that international diplomacy would work, is over. And maybe it is time for everyone to take a higher profile on this case. Congressional leaders, the state department, even the president should make some noise, too. And perhaps our intelligence network could work harder, too.

The year has been incredibly difficult for Schelly; she’s been living in limbo. But she has been buoyed by amazing support. She’s a physical education teacher at Arlington Elementary School; teachers and district administrators accommodated her schedule. Spokane Mountaineers kept her spirits high with phone calls, visits, prayers. And Monday, more than 200 friends and supporters gathered at the Lilac Bowl in Riverfront Park to send the message that Hutchings has not been forgotten.

Schelly and Hutchings are adventurers. They were hiking in an area known for unrest, an area that Westerners were urged to avoid. Now Schelly is off on another trek. This time for the life of her husband and the other hostages.

With her in India, Schelly carries the strength and the prayers of hundreds of Spokane people who are hoping this will truly be Independence Day for Don Hutchings.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board

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