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Brazilian reporter freed after being held in Libya

11 march 2011, 04:01
A Brazilian reporter held for a week in Libya by security officials was released Thursday in good health and was in the care of Brazil's ambassador to the conflict-torn country, his newspaper said.

Andrei Netto, 34, was now staying in the Tripoli residence of Brazilian ambassador George Ney Fernandes, the Estado de Sao Paulo daily said. He was expected to leave Libya on Friday, AFP reports.

The newspaper gave no information about a reporter for Britain's The Guardian newspaper, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi who had also been detained around the same time as Netto when both were covering fighting in the town of Zawiyah, close to Tripoli.

According to the Estado de Sao Paulo, Netto was detained eight days ago and was held in Sabratha, a town 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Tripoli. The facility he was kept in was attacked on Sunday, the newspaper said.

Estado de Sao Paulo lost direct contact with Netto over a week ago, when he avoided telephone and e-mail communications to prevent being identified as a journalist in Zawiyah, which Libyan government forces have tried to cut off to media.

Confirmation of his detention was only made public earlier Thursday, with his newspaper saying the Brazilian embassy in Libya was taking measures to have him released.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff issued a statement through her spokesman saying she had ordered her foreign ministry to take "urgent measures" to have Netto freed and ensure he was unhurt.

Netto is based in Paris and entered Libya February 19 from Tunisia to cover the Libyan uprising.

The Guardian's reporter had been in Zawiyah with Netto, and was likewise detained because he "entered the country illegally," a source in Tripoli told AFP.

A resident in Zawiyah said by telephone Thursday that forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had won control of the town. "The town is now under the army's control," said the resident, who asked to remain anonymous.

On Wednesday, the BBC reported that three of its journalists -- a Briton, a Palestinian and a Turk -- had been detained 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 after 21 hours.

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

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