An American writer is returning home Saturday after spending more than five months in solitary confinement in Libyan prisons, then joining the rebel forces who opposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Earlier this year, 32-year-old Matthew VanDyke was working in Baltimore on a book and film about a motorcycle trip across the Middle East and southeast Asia when he decided to witness the uprising in Libya. He disappeared during a day trip to Brega in March.
Although he wasn't heard from for months, VanDyke's mother, Sharon, and his girlfriend, Lauren Fischer, held strong to their belief that VanDyke would return. Sharon VanDyke even traveled to Turkey with photos of her son in hopes of speaking to Libyan diplomats in hopes they could work to free him.
Sharon VanDyke and Fischer enlisted Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersburger, a Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who held a news conference in May to call attention to the situation. Libyan officials initially denied VanDyke was being held, but in July they acknowledged he was in custody.
When the infamous Abu Salim prison in Tripoli was bombed in August, fellow prisoners broke open VanDyke's cell and he escaped. The fleeing prisoners made their way to a compound, where he was able to borrow a phone to call home.
VanDyke recounted his time in prison in an interview with The Associated Press after his escape. He said he was captured in an ambush by government troops in March in the town of Brega. He said he was then held in solitary confinement but was never told what he was accused of or if he would be released.
VanDyke said he'd remain in Libya until Gadhafi fell from power and he found out whether friends safely made it through the fighting. He later joined rebel fighters and now, on Facebook, he describes himself as a soldier in the Ali Hassan al-Jaber Brigade of the National Liberation Army of Libya. His mother has said she was nervous about him fighting, but supported his decision.
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