Libya frees two detained British journalists
TRIPOLI, March 19 — Two British journalists detained by a Libyan militia last month and accused of spying have been released and cleared of all charges, an interior ministry official said yesterday.
Nicholas Davies-Jones and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, who were working for Iran’s English-language Press TV, were detained on February 22 by the Swehli brigade, one of dozens of militias which last year helped force out Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Earlier this month, the Swehli militia said the Britons, initially detained for illegal entry into Libya, were suspected of spying.
Both men were transferred to the custody of the government this week.
“They have been released and tomorrow they will leave the country,” Abed al-Menemayad, head of the media and international cooperation office at the interior ministry, told Reuters.
“The British consul received them and the charges against them have been dropped,” he added, without giving details.
The British embassy in Tripoli said it was aware of reports of the men’s release.
On Tuesday, the militia released a video of the two journalists in which the men apologised for entering Libya illegally.
In a video message, which Davies-Jones said was given on March 12, the journalists said they were being treated well. While both seemed calm and appeared in good physical shape, it was not clear whether they were speaking freely. There was no reference to the spying allegations.
International rights campaigners including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have said the two Britons were detained illegally, and had called on the militia to either release them immediately or transfer them to the custody of the official Libyan authorities.
The fact they were initially held by a militia, rather than official authorities, underlined the instability and weak central government that has continued to plague Libya since last year’s rebellion. — Reuters