Abducted Spaniards Tell of Abuse

APTremino, left, and Rodriguez celebrating their release with their wives Sunday in Tbilisi after being held in captivity for a year.
TBILISI, Georgia -- Two Spanish businessmen held hostage in Georgia for more than a year said they were treated like animals by their masked kidnappers, deprived of food and tied together by the neck.

Looking pale and thin a day after their release in a special police operation near the border with Chechnya, Antonio Tremino and Francisco Rodriguez said Sunday that they had been in constant fear of being killed.

"They treated us very badly, in inhuman, unbearable conditions. Even animals shouldn't be treated that way," Tremino, 41, said in an interview outside a hotel in Tbilisi.

Georgian officials previously identified the man as Trevino.

"We were moved to different places 16 times. Each time we were moved we were afraid we would be killed. We didn't know what they were going to do next," Tremino said.

Tremino and his business partner Rodriguez, 49, were kidnapped on their way to the Tbilisi airport by four armed men on Nov. 30, 2000. They were held in the lawless Pankisi Gorge in Georgia's northeastern mountains by unknown kidnappers.

"All of them were in masks all the time. We don't know who they were. That's up to the investigators to find out," Rodriguez said.

"They were many of them, they were Muslims. There were several Muslim groups," he added.

The pair said they spoke to their families by phone three or four times while in captivity but could say only what they were ordered to by their kidnappers.

"They're tired, they have gotten thinner, but they are in better shape than we expected," Manuel de Luna, Spain's charge d'affaires in Georgia, told Spanish state radio.

Relatives of the men said they paid about 52 million pesetas ($277,900) in ransom to the kidnappers in September, but they were not released. Spanish media said they may have paid as much as 100 million pesetas ($534,500) in several installments.

Tremino and Rodriguez, both employees of a Georgian-Spanish joint venture, said their captors had demanded a ransom but refused to say whether one was paid. They added that they were being debriefed by Georgian investigators and hoped to fly home to Spain on Tuesday morning.

Kidnapping is fairly common in Georgia. A Lebanese businessman was held blindfolded and tied to a bed for three months before his release in August.