Hammerl ‘not expected in court’

2011-05-17 08:34

SA photographer Anton Hammerl is not expected to be among four journalists the Libyan government intends putting on trial, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) said today.

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said he had seen press reports, but said of Hammerl: “We still do not know his whereabouts.”

South African officials had still not gained consular access to Hammerl, who was reportedly seized by militia loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi near the city of Brega on April 5.

Late yesterday, the Associated Press quoted Libyan government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim saying that four reporters held for the past few weeks by the Libyan government would face trial and could be released.

Ibrahim said the reporters included at least two Americans and a Spaniard, but did not mention their names. They will appear before a judge in an administrative court today.

“It’s not a big deal. They should be fined a certain amount of money and then they should be released,” he was quoted as saying.

Among the reporters missing in Libya and thought to be in government custody are James Foley, a photojournalist working for Boston-based news agency GlobalPost; Clare Morgana Gillis, who was covering the fighting for The Atlantic and USA Today; and Manu Brabo, a Spanish photojournalist. They were captured on April 5.

It was not clear whether Ibrahim was referring to this group. He told AP a South African journalist reported to have been captured by Libyan forces had not been found.

At the end of April there were reported to be at least 16 journalists missing.

President Jacob Zuma was criticised for not raising Hammerl’s release when he met with Gaddafi recently.

Dirco Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane was due to hold a meeting with the South African National Editors Forum this morning, but Monyela said this had been cancelled due to “election commitments”.

Last Thursday, she was quoted by The Star newspaper saying Hammerl was alive and safe.

“I think what is very critical is to make sure that he remains safe, but also that we safely bring him back home,” she told the paper. According to the report, she confirmed the South African government had proof Hammerl was alive.

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