BBC team beaten by Gaddafi forces
A BBC news team reporting in violence-torn Libya was detained and repeatedly beaten by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's security forces after being accused of spying, it has emerged.
Three members of the corporation's Arabic staff were held for 21 hours in various military compounds where they were hooded, handcuffed, assaulted and subjected to a mock execution, the BBC said. Their "abhorrent treatment" was condemned by the Foreign Office who promised of a "day of reckoning" for the abuses.
The trio were arrested on Monday at an army checkpoint at Al Zahra, six miles south of the western city of Zawiyah. They were with a local driver who was also taken.
Despite their BBC identification being shown, the men had their equipment confiscated and were interrogated before being taken to a huge military compound and held with out food or water.
Correspondent Feras Killani, a Palestinian refugee, said he was accused of being a British spy by his Libyan captors and believed he was going to be executed.
He said: "They knocked me down to the ground with their guns, AK-47s. I was down on my knees and I heard them cocking their guns. I was on the floor on my side, hands and feet cuffed, lying half on a mattress, and they were beating me. I thought they were going to shoot me. It was a fake execution."
Another member of the team, Briton Chris Cobb-Smith, said the men were lined up against a wall at what they believed to be the headquarters of the foreign intelligence service during the ordeal. Goktay Koraltan, from Turkey, was also part of the BBC team. He said the group was at one point held in a cage in a small compound attached to a large military barracks.
Following the 21-hour ordeal, the news team was offered food and drink, and apologised to by a man who said their arrest was "a mistake by the military". They were then returned to their hotel and released and have now flown out of Libya.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We were aware of the incident and have been in contact with the BBC throughout, facilitating contacts to ensure the safe release of those detained. We condemn the abhorrent treatment of the team. This is yet another example of the horrific crimes being committed in Libya."
Liliane Landor, languages controller of BBC Global News, said: "The BBC strongly condemns this abusive treatment of our journalists and calls on the Libyan government to ensure all media are able to report freely and are protected from persecution."