Libya frees two detained British journalists

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2012 4:53 PM
Libya frees two detained British journalists

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Two British journalists detained by a Libyan militia last month have been released, an Interior Ministry official said on Sunday.

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 the 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 now suspected of spying.

They 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.

On Tuesday, the militia released a video of the two in which they apologized for entering Libya illegally.

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 have been held by a militia -- which has no official status -- is emblematic of the instability and weak central government control in Libya since last year's rebellion ended Gaddafi's rule with help from NATO air strikes.

(Reporting by Taha Zargoun; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian)