Wales

UK journalists held in Libya after Welsh mistaken for Hebrew

Two UK journalists were labelled "spies" after a militia in Libya confused the Welsh language with Hebrew.

Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, from Carmarthen, and Nicholas Davies-Jones, from Berkshire, were picked up by the Misrata Brigade in Tripoli last month.

They were carrying medical supplies which had Welsh words printed on them.

Mr Montgomery-Johnson told the BBC: "They thought this was Hebrew and we were Israeli spies."

The men had been working for the Iranian broadcaster Press TV, when the militia detained them on 22 February.

They were accused of entering the country illegally.

On March 14 they were handed over to the interior ministry after apologising for their actions.

They flew back the the UK on Monday night.

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC 5Live, Mr Davies-Jones said: "It's a lot to take in."

Mr Montgomery-Johnson said it felt "good" and was "overwhelmed".

"We're pleased to be back with our own families because they've been through a similar ordeal," he said.

"While we were there we were given no information at all. Now we're overwhelmed and thankful."

Before they were detained by the militia, the pair were "dancing", "having a good time" and had been filming the local council and mosque.

But around two hours after the pair were taken they realised they were "in trouble".

Mr Davies-Jones said some of the men were carrying weapons and others did not. They were kept in military barracks in the centre of Tripoli.

Cramped conditions

Five days after they had been taken, some of the men went to the men's hotel and picked up their filming equipment and began going through archive material.

Mr Montgomery-Johnson said: "My father, who's a nurse, had given me some bandages in case we got into trouble. Some had Welsh written on and they thought this was Hebrew and we were Israeli spies."

Mr Montgomery-Johnson said they were kept in cramped conditions.

"It was a small room 3m by 3m," he said.

"The conditions were not good at all. I don't know how much I can say."

Both men had been in regular communication with contacts across Libya but said "some militias keep misbehaving".

During the time the men were held, the UK embassy in Tripoli said it was following developments closely and was providing full consular support.

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