By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 16 December 2014:
Four crew members of a cargo plane apprehended in Ghadames in November were today released in . . .[restrict]Tripoli, after being detained for a month whilst investigations were underway.
The men – two Ukrainians, one Russian and one man from Kurdistan – were released following a court ruling yesterday relating to an aircraft carrying humanitarian aid which landed in Ghadames on 13 November. Suspected of transporting weapons, the plane was seized and all six crew arrested.
Along with the Ukrainian Consul Alexander Serosktar, the four men who have been released appeared at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office in Tripoli this evening.
The plane’s Russian pilot and co-pilot are still being held whilst investigations are completed. However, Serosktar said that, depending on the Libyan authorities, it was hoped that the men would be released in a matter of days. He said that embassy staff visited the detained men on a weekly basis and confirmed that they were well looked after.
“We were held in Mitiga Airport, but not in a prison,” the four freed crew members told the Libya Herald. “We were treated very well.” They confirmed that the aircraft – an Airbus A300 cargo plane – was not targeted in any way. As far as they knew, it was still in Ghadames, one said.
Head of the foreign media office and spokesperson for the Tripoli-based government Jamal Zubia explained that the plane, which he said was rented from the UAE, was detained at Ghadames because it was suspected of smuggling weapons and ammunition to the town. It had flown from Sharjah to Tobruk and then on to Ghadames.
“When the plane took off, Ghadames Airport was under control of the opposition but, by the time it landed, it was under control of Fajr Libya thuwar,” he said. At Ghadames airport, the plane was seized and searched, and the crew transferred to Tripoli for investigation. Zubia confirmed that the flight contained humanitarian supplies and not weapons.
The detention of the men and the aircraft appears to have gone entirely unreported until today. [/restrict]