Pierre Korkie, 56, was kidnapped in the city of Taiz in Yemen in May.

Bloemfontein - Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim has made an emotional appeal on Yemeni television for the release of Pierre Korkie, his department said on Wednesday.

“Pierre Korkie is gravely ill and desperately needs medical attention. His life is in danger. Islam enjoins us to show mercy and forbids us from harming the sick, even in war. I beg those who are holding him to release him without delay,” said Ebrahim.

“South Africa is a developing country and the Korkies are not a rich family. I appeal to you to co-operate with all initiatives so that Pierre Korkie can come home for the treatment he needs to save his life and be reunited with his family.”

The deputy minister made the appeal when he was in Yemen for consultations with that government, international relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete said in a statement.

“Arrangements were made for a signed version of the appeal to be sent directly to the kidnappers.”

Ebrahim said: “When the Prophet (SAW) sent Muaadh (RA) to Yemen, he advised him saying: ‘Show leniency to the people, don't be hard on them.'’I plead with you to show leniency to Pierre.

“The Qur'an commands: ‘Whoever kills an innocent human being, it is as if he has killed all of mankind. And whoever saves the life of one, it is as if he has saved the life of mankind'.”

Ebrahim thanked the kidnappers for the mercy they had shown to Pierre Korkie's wife Yolande.

“Now we beg you to save the life of Pierre, an innocent South African teacher who came to Yemen to contribute to uplifting your wonderful land.”

The al-Qaeda militants holding Korkie had threatened to execute him if they were not given $3 million (about R32.5m) in exchange for his safe return. Their initial deadline for the money to be delivered was Friday. They however extended this by 21 days.

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped in the city of Taiz in Yemen in May. Yolande Korkie was held for seven months and after extensive negotiations she was released in January without a ransom. She came home last week.

At a news conference in Johannesburg last week, Yolande begged Al-Qaeda to release her husband. The couple have been married for 20 years.

At the time of the kidnapping, Korkie was a teacher in Yemen, while his wife did relief work in hospitals. - Sapa