Kadhafi insisted S.African photographer was alive: FM

20th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had personally assured South Africa that photographer Anton Hammerl was still alive, even though loyalist forces had shot him dead, the foreign minister said Friday.

"We were assured by Kadhafi himself, by his sons, and by advisers that Anton Hammerl was alive and well," foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a news conference.

South African authorities only learned of Hammerl's death after the release Wednesday of four other journalists who were with him when he was shot in a remote part of the Libyan desert, she said.

"The journalists knew that he had been killed but decided for their own survival not to say anything in consular contacts and telephone conversations with their families," the minister said.

"We will maintain contact with the Libyan authorities to find Anton's body and bring him back for a decent burial."

The Libyan government, which had for weeks told Hammerl's family he was alive, had initially said he would be released with the four detained foreign journalists freed Wednesday in Tripoli.

Hammerl, 41, who had dual South African and Austrian nationality, had been at the centre of a weeks-long campaign by diplomats, family, friends and colleagues pushing for his release after Libyan officials said he was still alive.

Austria's ambassador to Pretoria, Otto Ditz, said he believed South Africa had done everything possible in Hammerl's case.

"Looking back on this very sad affair, I do not think we could have done any more," he told the news conference. "I am very disappointed with the Libyan authorities for not having told us of Anton's fate when they knew about it."

© 2011 AFP

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