Video of kidnapped Czechs demands release of jailed Pakistani

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A video message on Wednesday purporting to show two Czech women hostages in Pakistan demanded the release of a Pakistani national jailed in the United States in return for their freedom.

Antonie Chrastecka and Hana Humpalova, both 24, were kidnapped in Pakistan in March. They speak in the video against a background of photographs of Aafia Siddiqui, a neuroscientist who was given an 86-year sentence by a U.S. court in 2010 for shooting at FBI agents and soldiers in Afghanistan

The video showed close-ups of the two women’s passports and a sign saying: “Our Demand is only: release Dr. Aafia.”

“We appeal to our families and our president and all Czech people and the European Union to make every effort for cooperation,” Humpalova reads in the video, saying it was shot on April 16, a day after the Boston Marathon bombings.

“Our health is in good condition but our life in risk.”

It made no mention of the identity of the kidnappers.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said it had seen the tape and was analyzing it.

“We are concerned about their health and safety,” the ministry said. “We demand their immediate release and support all efforts of both their families in this direction.”

Czech television station TV Nova said it was given the video by a person calling herself Orna Moshe. It was also posted on a Facebook page that was set up under that name on Sunday.

The two women were kidnapped in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, near the Afghan border. There had been no news on their fate since they disappeared and no group claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Kidnapping for ransom is relatively common in Pakistan, and militants occasionally take foreigners hostage.

Pakistan’s Taliban claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Swiss couple in 2011, saying they could be freed if Siddiqui was released. The couple escaped after eight months in captivity. The Swiss government denied paying any ransom.

Calls for Siddiqui’s release were also made by al Qaeda-linked kidnappers in Algeria in January.

Her sentence was upheld by an appeals court last year.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alison Williams