Libya frees Brazilian reporter

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Libyan security forces freed Thursday a Brazilian reporter detained since March 2 but held on to an award-winning Iraqi journalist working for a British newspaper, their employers said.

Andrei Netto, 34, was at the ambassador's residence waiting to leave Libya for France after being held for eight days in Sabratha, a town 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Tripoli, the Brazilian daily Estado de Sao Paulo said.

The newspaper said Netto -- a Paris-based correspondent who entered Libya via Tunisia on February 19 and whose detention was made public earlier Thursday -- was "in good health."

Brazil's GloboNews television network said Netto was hit by a gun butt and hooded by four men when he tried to obtain authorization from Libyan officials to stay in the country.

He was held in a cell in a military base and his repeated requests to contact the Brazilian ambassador were refused.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had ordered her government take "urgent measures" to have Netto released after the newspaper confirmed his captivity.

The Estado de Sao Paulo had no information, however, about the fate of the reporter for Britain's daily The Guardian, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.

He was held in the same cell as Netto for several days, "but the Brazilian reporter does not know where he is right now," the newspaper said.

Both reporters were detained after covering fighting in and near Zawiyah, a town close to Tripoli which Libyan security forces tried to cut off from foreign media. The forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi retook the town Wednesday.

The Guardian said Thursday on its website that Libya's foreign ministry had finally confirmed to it that Abdul-Ahad was in custody.

The newspaper had been urgently seeking information about his whereabouts for days after it lost indirect contact with him last Sunday.

Abdul-Ahad has worked for The Guardian since 2004, reporting from Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, the daily said.

He has won the British Press Awards foreign reporter of the year prize, and was shortlisted again this year.

A well-informed source in Tripoli told AFP that Abdul-Ahad had been arrested because he "entered the country illegally."

The source did not provide details on when the newsman was detained, where he was being held or what his condition was.

On Wednesday, the BBC reported that three of its journalists -- a Briton, a Palestinian and a Turk -- had been detained at a checkpoint close to Zawiyah.

They said they were subjected to mock executions by laughing Libyan security officers, and the Palestinian and Turk were repeatedly beaten. All three were released from military barracks in Tripoli after 21 hours and have left the country.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said the treatment given to the BBC team by Kadhafi's men "could amount to torture" under international law.

© 2011 AFP

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