News24

Australian freed from Libya prison

2012-03-09 12:13

Sydney - An Australian adventurer seized by a Libyan militia while trekking across the Sahara has been released after a 28-day prison ordeal, officials said on Friday.

Tom Smitheringale was attempting the trek to raise money for the Starlight Foundation, a charity that works to improve the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

According to reports, he was held after crossing the border from Egypt during his bid to walk across the desert to Morocco and thrown in jail in the port city of Benghazi.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed they assisted Smitheringale, a former soldier.

"Our embassies in Cairo and Rome provided consular assistance to an Australian man detained in Libya, who has since been released," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"Consular officials in Canberra also provided assistance to the man's family."

The West Australian newspaper said British officials, with the aid of Australian representatives, found and "extracted" the 41-year-old from his jail and put him on a plane to Istanbul.

Perth-based Smitheringale said he was relieved "to see the sun again".

"28 days in a Libyan militia prison. The first 27 were the hardest," he said on his blog.

"These people are definitely not to be trifled with.

"It would be inappropriate of me to elaborate on the details of my capture and extraction and as I'm still in country."

Smitheringale, who describes himself as a "grown up version of Action Man", had previously attempted to become only the third person in history to reach the North Pole unassisted in 2010.

But he had to be rescued by the Canadian military after activating a distress beacon.