Far right's Le Pen 'troubled' by Al-Qaida hostages' return to France
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Friday declared herself "troubled" by TV footage of four hostages who returned to France on Wednesday after three years as prisoners of Al-Qaida. Their beards were "astonishing" and their clothes "strange" the former Front National presidential candidate told Europe 1 radio on Thursday.
"I found these images astonishing, their extreme reserve astonishing, their clothing astonishing," Le Pen told an interviewer when asked her whether she had been moved by the former hostages' arrival at Villacoublay military airport near Paris.
Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Féret were freed on Wednesday after being held by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) in the Sahara desert for three years.
They were captured in Niger, where they were working for French nuclear giant Areva.
Le Pen said she found that some of the man had beards that were "clipped in an astonishing way" and the way they were dressed "strange".
"That hostage with a chèche [a Tuareg scarf also known as a tagelmust] over his face ... that requires some explanation on their part," she added.
Asked if she thought that the men had been converted to Islam, the far-right leader declared, "I'm not a psychiatrist ... I'm saying how I felt ... I won't go so far as to formulate theories, that's not my role."
Legrand's mother, Pascale Robert, hit back at Le Pen later in the day.
"They told us very clearly that keeping their beards and the chèche was in solidarity with the other hostages still there," she told the i-télé TV channel. "It's up to them. We found it very touching that they feel solidarity with the others."
Le Pen also poured scorn on the the government's claim that no ransom had been paid, claiming that the practise endangers other French nationals in sensitive areas.
"To the fundamentalists the French are profitable and that's disastrous," she said.
Not paying "does not necessarily mean that the hostages will die," she said. "That's a risk you have to take. We have intelligence services and an army capable of getting them back, I think ... without having to pay ransoms that are an incitement to repeat the kidnapping of French people ad infinitum."
Attempts to free the four hostages were hampered by the fact that their captors split them up so that they could take reprisals if a raid was launched in one of the places wher they were being held.