TV crew to appear in Liberian court

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The Independent Online

Four television journalists detained in Liberia, including two Britons, are expected to learn today whether they are to be charged with spying, when they appear before magistrates in the capital Monrovia.

Four television journalists detained in Liberia, including two Britons, are expected to learn today whether they are to be charged with spying, when they appear before magistrates in the capital Monrovia.

The film crew was arrested late on Friday while making a documentary for Channel 4 and was being held in a Monrovia police station.

Liberia's Deputy Information Minister, Milton Teahjay, alleged yesterday they were planning to broadcast unsubstantiated claims of Liberia's involvement in gun-running and diamond-smuggling.

But a Channel 4 spokesman said the planned documentary was about Liberia's recovery from years of civil war, and denied it was intended as an attack on the government.

The detained men are David Barrie who is British, Tim Lambon who has dual British/South African nationality, Gugulakhe Radebe from South Africa, and the award-winning Sierra Leonean film-maker Sorious Samura. A Liberian solicitor retained by Channel 4 saw them in custody yesterday.

Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton's special envoy to Africa, has made a plea to Liberia's President, Charles Taylor, for their immediate release. But Mr Teahjay told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that the legal process would be allowed to run its course. "The validity of the evidence will be determined by the courts, but what we have in our possession constitutes a threat to our national security," he said.

Mr Teahjay said the men had been accredited as journalists in Liberia, but had been searched when they started filming without permission.

President Taylor's regime has received accusations from Britain and the US of being a conduit for diamonds smuggled by Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone.

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