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AFP photo stringer freed after Spain migrant centre arrest

A photographer who works for AFP was arrested Wednesday and later released pending charges of transporting illegal immigrants in her car in Spain’s north African territory Melilla, which she denied.

The Civil Guard military police arrested Angela Rios, a 30-year-old Spaniard, early Wednesday morning near the city’s immigrant reception centre.

A judge released her several hours later pending charges of “aiding illegal immigration”, which she formally denied before the court, her lawyer Antonio Zapata told AFP.

“I do not understand this persecution,” Rios told AFP by telephone.

She was near the immigration centre to photograph migrants who climbed into Melilla over the fence that separates the territory from Morocco.

Her photographs of previous attempts by migrants to cross the triple-layer, seven-metre (23-foot) fence have been printed on the front pages of several newspapers.

Local Civil Guard spokesman Juan Antonio Martin Rivera told AFP she had been “transporting four sub-Saharans in a car to the immigration centre” after migrants charged at the fence.

“She was not taking photographs,” he said, denying that she had been arrested for doing her job as a photographer.

The Spanish government delegation in Melilla said in a statement that about 70 migrants tried to scale the fence in the fog early Wednesday morning and five of them made it over.

It said that four of them fled and officers detained a photographer who had been driving a car and was suspected of “aiding illegal immigration”.

Rios told the judge on Wednesday afternoon that she had pointed some immigrants in the direction of the immigration centre when she saw them as she was driving, her lawyer said.

She said she then got out of the car to take pictures of them running, and police detained her when she reached the centre, Zapata told AFP.

He said that Rios had pictures and a video of those scenes on her camera left in the car, which the Civil Guard confiscated.

Officers ordered her to follow them in her car to the Civil Guard headquarters, where they held her in detention before taking her to the judge.

AFP’s director for Spain, Patrick Rahir, contacted the Spanish government to demand an explanation for the arrest.

“We hope that this is just a misunderstanding,” he said.

Zapata said: “I have no doubt that this case will be dismissed” by the courts.