The commander of the Misrata militia holding two British journalists and their Libyan driver has accused them of spying and entering . . .[restrict]the country illegally.
Faraj Swehli, head of the balaclava-wearing Saadoun Swehli militia based at the Girls Military Academy, claimed Sunday that reporter Nicholas Davies and cameraman Gareth Montgomery-Johnson had no valid visas for Libya and had been spying on government facilities when they were arrested in Misrata on 21 February.
Other foreign media people who had met the men said that they had been in the country for over six months and had been attempting to get to know some of the Misrata militiamen when they were detained.
Until now there had been no indication why the Misrata militia had imprisoned the three men, who have since been moved to the militia’s Tripoli headquarters at the women’s military base near the Marriott hotel. The two journalists were both freelances who had been working for the Iranian Press TV service.
Attempts by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to visit the men have been rebuffed by the militiamen, . Demands that they be handed over to the government, have also been refused. When Human Rights Watch last sought unsuccessfully to see the men, they were armed with an authorisation from the Ministry of the Interior, arranged by the minister Fawzi Abdelal.
Swehli asserted Sunday that his men were protecting the country because the government could not do the job itself. He gave no indication of what evidence his militia had against the men nor of any plans to hand them over for trial. [/restrict]