British journalists handed over in Libya


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The Independent Online

Two British journalists held by a Libyan militia after they were accused of spying have been transferred to the custody of the government, the Foreign Office said.

Nicholas Davies-Jones and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson were captured in the Libyan capital Tripoli on February 22 while working as freelancers with the Iranian state-owned Press TV.

They were detained by the Misrata-based Saraya Swehli brigade, one of the dozens of militias which helped force out Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last year.

The Foreign Office said Libyan authorities confirmed the pair have been handed over by the militia group.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Throughout the period they have been detained, we have been in regular contact with the Libyan authorities, the men and their families.

"The authorities have confirmed the men have been handed over to the Libyan government."

The militia group released a video of the two Britons yesterday, in which they apologised for entering the North African country illegally.

In the video message, which Mr Davies-Jones dated as March 12, the journalists said they were being treated well.

They appeared calm and in good physical shape as they spoke sitting on a couch. It was not clear if they were speaking freely and there was no reference to the spying allegations.

International rights campaigners, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, had called on the militia either to release the men immediately or transfer them to the custody of the official Libyan authorities.

Last week, Mr Montgomery-Johnson's sister Mel Gribble, of Carmarthen, urged the British Government to keep up pressure over the case.

She said: "I'm assured that our Government is doing its very best, but we don't want them to dwindle on it, we want them to keep up the pressure like a broken record."

Libya's new leaders are trying to rebuild the nation's security force and rein in militias following last year's civil war.