Image: Margaret Hassan
Margaret Hassan, the kidnapped British director of CARE International, is seen in this image made from an undated video aired on Al-Jazeera television Wednesday.
updated 10/30/2004 10:03:11 AM ET 2004-10-30T14:03:11

A leading Sunni Muslim clerical association called Saturday for the release of kidnapped aid worker Margaret Hassan, saying it was unacceptable to harm innocent people regardless of her origins.

Hassan, 59, a citizen of Britain, Ireland and Iraq, was abducted Oct. 19 on her way to the office of CARE International, where she served as national director. CARE International announced it had shut down operations in Iraq to meet one of the demands of the kidnappers.

"We call upon the kidnappers, if they are members of the Iraqi resistance, if they respect us and if they care about our Islamic and patriotic principles, to set her free," said Mohammed Bashar al-Faydhi, spokesman of the Association of Muslim Scholars.

"It is not permitted that we do harm to her just because she is a British as long as long as she is innocent, and we do think she is innocent," he added. "If this woman is involved in harmful activities against our country, then the kidnappers should announce this in public because silence is not in the interest of our struggle."

No group has claimed responsibility for kidnapping Hassan, who is married to an Iraqi and who has lived here for 30 years.

However, in videotapes a distraught Hassan called for CARE International to close its offices in Iraq, for British Prime Minister Tony Blair to withdraw troops from Iraq and for the authorities to release all Iraqi female prisoners.

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