Last updated: 14 March, 2012

Militia hands Britons to Libya government

A militia that held two British journalists accused of illegal entry into Libya have handed the pair over to the government, the deputy interior minister said Wednesday.

“The two journalists were handed over to the interior ministry and are now under the government’s control,” Omar al-Khadrawi told AFP.

A spokesman for the government and the ruling National Transitional Council had said previously that the militia was still holding the Britons who were working for Iran’s English-Language Press TV.

The Swehli militia from the western city of Misrata, which also operates in Tripoli, seized Nicholas Davies and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson last month while they were reportedly filming in a sensitive area of Tripoli late at night.

On Sunday, the commander of the militia, Faraj Swehli, said the two were being held for illegal entry and possible espionage.

Swehli said suspicious conduct by the journalists led his men to track them as they moved around Tripoli and conducted interviews at various ministries of the interim government.

“With regards to the two detainees from Britain, they were in Libya illegally, without a visa or entry stamp,” Swehli told reporters.

He said the the men, who have been held for 13 days, were being questioned because “incriminating evidence” such as an Israeli army medical patch had been found in their possession.

Human rights watchdogs have called for their immediate release.

Sidney Kwiram, a Human Rights Watch representative in Libya, said on Monday that no matter the accusations, detentions by militias are illegal, adding that the Swehli group continued to refuse HRW access to the detainees.