Journalists freed by Liberia thought they would be killed

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The Independent Online

Four journalists released by Liberia after a week in detention said today that they had feared for their lives.

Four journalists released by Liberia after a week in detention said today that they had feared for their lives.

Sorious Samura, an award-winning journalist from Sierra Leone, said he had been threatened by guards.

"They were brandishing a knife and said: 'we are going to split your heart open' and I thought that was the end," Samura told a news conference shortly after three of the four arrived at London's Heathrow airport.

The journalists - British director David Barrie, Zimbabwe-born cameraman Tim Lambon, who has dual South African and British nationality, Sierra Leonean journalist Mr Samura - and South African soundman Gugulakhe Radebe - told how they were bundled into trucks by 20 police brandishing rifles during their arrest.

The Channel 4 film crew, including Radebe, 39, who has flown back home to Johannesburg, were then locked up in police cells.

On Friday, Liberian Justice Minister Eddington Varmah said the government had agreed to drop all charges against the journalists from London-based Insight News Television - two Britons, a South African and a Sierra Leonean - in exchange for an apology.

In a brief, handwritten letter to President Charles Taylor, the journalists apologized "to both his excellency the president of Liberia and the people of Liberia for any offense which our action or statements have caused."

"We went their to do a job, we meant no offense. We went in there to try and understand the country," Barrie told the news conference.

The journalists had been in Liberia three weeks working on a documentary when they were arrested a week ago at their hotel in the capital, Monrovia.

They were formally charged on Monday.

The indictment said the government believed their documentary would try to support British and U.S. accusations of Liberian government involvement in diamond-smuggling and gunrunning for rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

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