Sao Paulo, March 12 (IANS/EFE) A Brazilian journalist held for more than a week by Libyan security forces has been freed, reported his employer, the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo.
Andrei Netto, 34, was taken to the residence of the Brazilian ambassador in Tripoli, the newspaper said in its online edition, adding that he is in excellent health.
The journalist, an O Estado de Sao Paulo correspondent in Paris, was detained by troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Sabratha, a city 60 km from Tripoli, while he was trying obtain a visa to remain in the country.
According to the newspaper, Netto was attacked March 2 by a group of men who struck him on the head, covered him with a hood and took him to a jail cell, possibly on a military base.
Netto was detained along with Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi journalist who works for British daily The Guardian, although the latter was taken to a different location.
The Sao Paulo daily had reported earlier that the two had shared the same cell for several days.
The Brazilian correspondent, who was not physically assaulted during his time in custody, was “forced” to agree to leave the country as a condition of his release.
“I was isolated, unable to see sunlight. I felt the wind on my face for the first time in eight days,” Netto said Thursday after his release.
According to the journalist, both he and his colleague entered Libya from Tunisia with the help of a group of rebels and did not obtain a valid visa at the border crossing.
“We tried (to apply for a visa) in Paris and in Tunis. In both cities, the consulates were closed. When we returned to the Dehiba (border) post, the area was overrun with the clashes,” he said.
O Estado de Sao Paulo reported Thursday that Netto had been arrested and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff subsequently instructed diplomatic personnel to take steps to secure his release.
Rousseff “ordered the foreign ministry to take urgent measures to ensure his physical safety and his freedom”, presidential spokesman Rodrigo Baena said.
Netto was assigned to Libya to cover the uprising there against Gaddafi, but the newspaper lost direct contact with him a week ago.
The correspondent, who has worked in Paris since 2006, entered Libya Feb 19 and was en route to Tripoli when he was arrested.