Fri, May 20, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Libya sets free four arrested journalists, all in good health

AFP, TRIPOLI

Libya on Wednesday freed four arrested journalists — two Americans, a Briton and a Spaniard — an AFP journalist witnessed as they arrived at the capital’s Rixos Hotel.

James Foley of GlobalPost, a US online news agency, and freelance writer Clare Morgana Gillis, as well as Spanish photographer Manu Brabo disappeared on April 4 while covering the conflict in Libya.

They were released along with Briton Nigel Chandler, who has previously worked as a freelance journalist for the BBC.

The four looked tired, but appeared to be in good health.

The freed journalists were taken directly to a room near the reception, but colleagues were prevented from meeting them.

“They told me they do not want to talk to the press. They are nervous and need rest,” government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement it “welcomes” the release of Brabo. It said he is in “good health” and was to be driven to the border with Tunisia yesterday from where he would return to Spain.

The British Foreign Office confirmed Chandler’s release and said it was providing consular support.

On Tuesday, Ibrahim said the two Americans, a Spaniard and a South African, Anton Hammerl, were to be released imminently.

However, there was no immediate information on the fate of Hammerl, who was also detained on April 4, even though the South African ambassador was at the hotel waiting for him.

Mussa on Wednesday referred to “confusion” about the journalists and said Hammerl’s whereabouts were unknown.

The previous day, he said that “four journalists were tried by an administrative tribunal and were given one-year suspended prison sentences and a fine of 200 dinars [US$154] each for illegal entry into the country.”

“There are some administrative procedures to complete. They will be freed very soon,” said Ibrahim, who appeared at the time to be referring to Hammerl as part of the group.

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