Three British Broadcasting Corp staff were detained, beaten
and subjected to mock executions by pro-regime soldiers in
Libya while attempting to reach the western city of Zawiya,
the broadcaster said today.
The news organisation said the crew, members of a BBC Arabic
team, were detained on Monday by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists at
a check point about 10km south of Zawiya.
Chris Cobb-Smith, a British journalist and part of the crew,
said the group were moved between several locations, in some
cases alongside civilian captives who had visible injuries
from heavy beatings.
On Tuesday, the crew were driven to a building in Tripoli
which they believed was the headquarters of Libya's overseas
intelligence service. The men were told to bow their heads
and line along a wall by soldiers.
"A man with a small submachine gun was putting it to the nape
of everyone's neck in turn. He pointed the barrel at each of
us. When he got to me at the end of the line, he pulled the
trigger twice. The shots went past my ear," Cobb-Smith said.
The BBC said the men were held for 21 hours before they were
released, and have since left Libya. It reported the details
of their detention in bulletins late on Wednesday.
Liliane Landor, an executive at BBC Global News, said the
organization would continue to cover the conflict in Libya,
despite the attack on its staff. "The BBC strongly condemns
this abusive treatment of our journalists and calls on the
Libyan government to ensure all media are able to report
freely and are protected from persecution," she said.
Feras Killani, another of the crew, said in one location he
was forced to his knees while a guard cocked a gun in a mock
execution. "I thought they were going to shoot me," he told
Killani said he was accused of being a British spy, abused
for his Palestinian heritage and beaten by guards. One captor
struck him "with his fist, then boots, then knees. Then he
found a plastic pipe on the ground and beat me with that.
Then one of the soldiers gave him a long stick."
Cameraman Goktay Koraltan, who is Turkish, said he feared for
the crew lives. "I thought they would shoot us, I could hear
guns loading. I was scared to death I thought it was the
execution moment," he said.
Killani said four other men being held in one facility told
him they had been without food for three days and had been
repeatedly tortured. Others had visible signs of abuse,
including broken ribs, he said.