TOKYO -- Three Japanese who were held hostage for a week in Iraq were billed about $7,000 each to cover their plane tickets home and other miscellaneous expenses, an official said yesterday.
The three returned last week amid a storm of criticism that they behaved recklessly in going to a country that Japan had repeatedly warned civilians to avoid.
The government said aid workers Noriaki Imai, 18, and Nahoko Takato, 34, and freelance photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, 32, were being billed in the same manner as other Japanese civilians who have been transported home after getting into trouble overseas.
A travel agency sent the former hostages and their families invoices, a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
They were kidnapped by militants who threatened to burn them alive if Tokyo did not withdraw its troops from Iraq within three days. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did not comply, and the gunmen released the three unharmed a week later after an appeal by Islamic clerics.
The former hostages received a chilly welcome in Japan, however, amid accusations they imperiled Tokyo's humanitarian mission.