Official: 4 journalists held in Libya to be freed

May 17, 2011 - 9:44 AM

TRIPOLI (AP) — A Libyan government spokesman says four journalists detained since early April have completed an administrative hearing and will be released Tuesday or Wednesday.

Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the four already had appeared before a judge in an administrative court and were to be freed soon.

Ibrahim gave their names as James Foley, who had been covering the conflict in Libya for the Boston-based news agency GlobalPost, and Claire Morgana Gillis, a freelance journalist who wrote for The Atlantic and USA Today.

He also named Manu Brabo, a Spanish journalist picked up with Foley and Gillis on April 5.

It was not immediately clear who the fourth journalist is.

Photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who has South African and Austrian citizenships, went missing in Libya about the time the others were detained, but there has been no formal announcement about him.

Ibrahim said the four journalists were returned to detention following the hearing on charges that they "entered the country illegally," suggesting they had not applied for and received visas before arriving to work in Libya.

He also said that arrangements were being made for their repatriation. He did not know if they would be required to pay fines before leaving.

"They should go home today or tomorrow at the latest," Ibrahim said. "After the trial they were returned to external security — it's like detention."

A number of journalists covering the conflict in Libya have entered the country without visas, especially if they expect to be reporting from rebel-held territory.

Foreign reporters based in the Libyan capital have not been able to see the four journalists.