, MOGADISHU, Mar 4 – The Somali parliament on Thursday called for the unconditional and immediate release of a British couple who have been held hostage by pirates since their yacht was hijacked in October.
"The Somali parliament and the public are deeply disturbed by the unlawful detention by pirates of the British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler," said a statement signed by Deputy Speaker Mohamed Omar Dalha.
"Parliament calls for their immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds due to their age and poor health," it said.
The Chandlers were sailing from the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles to Tanzania when their small yacht, the Lynn Rival, was captured by ransom-hunting pirates on October 23.
They were later brought ashore and have since been held separately in Somalia\’s Mudug region, north of the pirate laid of Harardhere.
The parliament statement called "upon all the traditional elders, clerics, women\’s groups, professional and the public at large in Mudug region to urge the pirates to immediately release the Chandlers and end the inhuman psychological torture inflicted upon them."
In a telephone interview with a Somali television carried by British networks earlier this week, the 56-year-old Rachel Chandler reiterated her distress at being separated from her 60-year-old husband.
One of the pirates explained that reuniting the couple was ruled out for security reasons.
The amount demanded by the pirates for the Chandlers\’ release is unclear.
Britain, which last week banned Somalia\’s Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab movement, has a policy of not paying ransoms but some observers have warned that pirates risked selling their hostages to a more political group to cut their losses.