The U.S. House of Representatives is set to ask again for the release of a Spokane psychologist missing for almost two years.
An amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act will call on the Al Faran guerrilla group in Kashmir to release Donald Hutchings and three other Western tourists who were kidnapped in July 1995.
It also asks that a State Department program offering rewards for information about the kidnapping be used “to the greatest extent possible.”
Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane, who introduced the amendment, said it should come to a vote early next week. The proposal could easily have passed on a voice vote, but Nethercutt said he wanted each member to vote to signify the strength of the support.
Congress passed a less comprehensive resolution last year, Nethercutt said. That didn’t seem to have much effect.
“A year ago, there was a feeling not to go so public - that it would endanger (the hostages),” he said. “We’re looking to pull out all the stops. It’s incumbent on us not to be cautious but to be bolder.”
Hutchings, Dirk Hassert of Germany and Keith Mangan and Paul Wells of Great Britain have not been heard from since late 1995.
Al Faran demanded that 21 people who are in jail for trying to separate Kashmir from India be freed.
When India refused, the group threatened to kill the hostages. Although some captured rebels have said they were told that threat was carried out, villagers in Kashmir have reported seeing Westerners in the company of armed men.
Nethercutt said it is unclear whether Al Faran is still in Kashmir, or even still exists.
“But we’re trying to send a signal. If they still exist, there’s hope for Don and the other hostages to be located,” he said.
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