BBC team blinfolded and beaten by Gaddafi forces

LONDON: A BBC news team was detained and beaten up by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces after being accused of spying, the British broadcaster reported Thursday.

The three men, who were trying to reach the violence-torn western city of Az Zawiya, were beaten with fists, knees and rifles, and subjected to mock executions by members of Libya’s army and secret police.

The men were detained Monday and held for 21 hours, but have now left Libya, the report said.

Libya has been witnessing massive anti-government protests since Feb 14. The protesters are demanding the ouster of Gaddafi who has ruled the north African country for almost 42 years.

The three of them were taken to a huge military barracks in Tripoli, where they were blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten.

One of the three, Chris Cobb-Smith, said: "We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line — facing the wall.

"I looked and I saw a plain-clothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone’s neck. I saw him and he screamed at me.

"Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed."

A second member of the team — Feras Killani, a correspondent of Palestinian descent — is said to have been singled out for repeated beatings.

The captors told him they did not like his reporting of the Libyan popular uprising and accused him of being a spy, the BBC said.

The third member of the team, cameraman Goktay Koraltan, said they were all convinced they were going to die.

During their detention, the BBC team saw evidence of torture against Libyan detainees, many of whom were from Zawiya.

"I cannot describe how bad it was. Most of them (other detainees) were hooded and handcuffed really tightly, all with swollen hands and broken ribs. They were screaming," Koraltan said.

A senior Libyan government official later apologised for the treatment to the BBC team.

The BBC said it "strongly condemns this abusive treatment".

"The safety of our staff is our primary concern especially when they are working in such difficult circumstances and it is essential that journalists working for the BBC, or any media organisation, are allowed to report on the situation in Libya without fear of attack," said a statement from Liliane Landor, languages controller of BBC Global News.(IANS)


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