Speaking to reporters in a Paris, Ms Aubenas appeared relaxed but gaunt as she explained the hardships she’d endured, trapped in a small underground room with her hands and feet bounded and blindfolded.
Information surrounding her release on June 11, and that of her Iraqi guide and interpreter Hussein Hanun, remain obscure amid speculation a ransom was paid in return for their freedom.
Ms Aubenas said she did not know if a ransom was paid, adding that “no one ever spoke to me about money.”
She said had shared her captivity with another hostage with whom she was never allowed to speak, only finding out days before her release that it was Mr Hanun.
The 44-year-old senior correspondent with the ‘Liberation’ newspaper said she was kidnapped along with Mr Hanun on January 5, near Baghdad’s university.
Held in a four-by-two metre cellar, she walked a total of 24 steps a day – 12 each during two daily toilet breaks – spending the rest of her time silently eating, sleeping and waiting on a foam mattress.
If she made too much noise she was beaten by her kidnappers, who she said vaguely indicated they were members of an unspecified Sunni Muslim ‘religious movement’.
At one point, the group’s leader, identified only as ‘the Boss’ or ‘Hadji’, ordered her to undergo questioning and accused her of being a spy.
She was forced to appear in a video that was broadcast on March 1, in which she was told to describe her physical condition as bad and make an appeal to a French MP, Didier Julia, who had led a failed unofficial rescue effort for two other French hostages.
According to Ms Aubenas, ‘the Boss’ said he had heard of Mr Julia, and that kidnappers knew about Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, two other French journalists freed in December.
But Ms Aubenas became uncharacteristically tight-lipped when asked about three Romanian hostages who claim to have been kept with her before their release on May 22.
“The situation is delicate… I can’t speak about the Romanians,” she said.
The French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin addressed the nation’s parliament, thanking the world community and “Romania in particular” for their help in winning the Frenchwoman’s liberty.
However, he did not elaborate on the nature of Romania’s assistance.
In a lighter moment, Ms Aubenas apologised to reporters for her raspy voice, saying she had not spoken much during captivity but that she had “regained the habit and (was) speaking all the time”, causing a roar of laughter from the assembled press.