An American freelance journalist freed after being detained for five months in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison has described how at the moment of his release he thought he was going to die.
Matthew VanDyke got out last week when rebels took control of the area. He had joined a rebel group back in March after coming to Libya to follow the uprising.
“I was in Brega. That day I was taking photographs of the town. I was with three rebels in a truck and we were ambushed,” he said.
Knocked unconscious, VanDyke woke up in a tiny cell listening to a man being tortured. He was held in solitary confinement but says the guards treated him well. He had no news of the outside world until the rebels came and inmates made their escape.
“It was a prison break,” he went on. “Mass prison break. Prisoners came to my cell and busted off the locks. I thought they were guards coming to kill me, so I thought it was the end. I thought they were going to take me out and stack tyres around my body and set me on fire. And then more guys started showing up dressed like me. One guy said ‘Gaddafi’s finished’. I didn’t believe it.”
The US government said last week that all Americans known to be detained in Libya had been released.
Unlike other foreigners, nothing was heard of VanDyke’s whereabouts during his detention. The first news of his freedom came when he phoned his girlfriend.
He plans to stay in Libya until the country is free.