BBC Reporters Team Tortured by Gaddafi Forces in Libya

World | March 10, 2011, Thursday // 10:10
Bulgaria: BBC Reporters Team Tortured by Gaddafi Forces in Libya Goktay Koraltan and Feras Killani say other detainees had been badly beaten and tortured. Photo by BBC

Security forces of Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have detained and beat up a BBC news team who were trying to reach the tumultuous western city of Zawiya.

The news was reported by BBC Thursday.

Two reporters and a cameraman were beaten with fists, knees and rifles, hooded and subjected to mock executions by members of Libya's army and secret police. They were detained Monday and held in captivity for 21 hours. The journalists have already left Libya by plane, BBC informs.

The BBC Arabic Service team showed their identification when they were detained at an army roadblock on Monday. The three of them were taken to a huge military barracks in Tripoli, where they were blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten.

One of the three, Chris Cobb-Smith, said: "We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line - facing the wall.

"I looked and I saw a plain-clothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone's neck. I saw him and he screamed at me.

"Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed."

A second member of the team - Feras Killani, a correspondent of Palestinian descent - appears to have been singled out for repeated beatings.

Their captors told him they did not like his reporting of the Libyan popular uprising and accused him of being a spy. (During their detention, the BBC team saw evidence of torture against Libyan detainees, many of whom were from Zawiya.)

The third member of the team, cameraman Goktay Koraltan, said they were all convinced they were going to die.

For days now, Gaddafi forces, with artillery and tanks, are fiercely trying to retake Zawiya from the rebels.

The BBC issued a statement strongly condemning the "abusive treatment" of its journalists.

"The safety of our staff is our primary concern especially when they are working in such difficult circumstances and it is essential that journalists working for the BBC, or any media organisation, are allowed to report on the situation in Libya without fear of attack," said the statement from Liliane Landor, languages controller of BBC Global News.

"Despite these attacks, the BBC will continue to cover the evolving story in Libya for our audiences both inside and outside the country."

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Tags: Muamar Qaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi, Zawiya, BBC, reporters, cameraman, beaten, Torture
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