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Militia hands 2 British journalists to Libyan intelligence, accuses them of espionage
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) ' A commander of a Libyan militia holding two British journalists said Thursday they have been handed over to state intelligence, accusing them of espionage.
Tripoli militia commander Faraj al-Swehli said the two journalists were found with classified documents and pictures, including a data base of mercenaries apparently hired by then-ruler Moammar Gadhafi.
"They had pictures of themselves holding weapons, and the way they appeared in the pictures made them look like professional soldiers," al-Swehli said, adding that among the documents were lists of bank accounts abroad as well as letters hand-written by Gadhafi's son Moatassim.
"There were even detailed reports of rebel movements," he said.
Al-Swehli said that he handed the two to Libyan intelligence for further interrogation on Tuesday.
The journalists were identified as reporter Nicholas Davies and cameraman Gareth Montgomery-Johnson. They were detained at the end of February. They were working for Press TV, an Iranian TV network.
Al-Swehli said Press TV has not contacted the militia since the capture of its crew.
In a video clip provided by al-Swehli, the two reporters, shown sitting on a couch, said they apologize to the Libyan people for entering the country illegally, and they are in good condition.
"We are sorry for causing any inconvenience," Montgomery-Johnson said in the video. "We love Libya and we came here to film its struggle for freedom and report the news."
Al-Swehli declined to give access to the journalists. His militia, originally from the city of Misrata, was among the rebel forces that swept through the capital of Tripoli in August, toppling Gadhafi.
Since then, the militia has set up checkpoints and refused to integrate with the national army or police, charging that the new governmental bodies are packed with former Gadhafi forces.