After 43 days of detention by the Libyan authorities, Harvard graduate and freelance journalist Clare M. Gillis was finally released on Wednesday and moved to Rixos Hotel in Tripoli.
The Atlantic reported that Gillis is very relieved and “happy to be going home.” Her mother said the family is “ecstatic for her release,” and “is looking forward to her safe return home.”
Three other journalists were also freed, including James Foley, an American freelance contributor to GlobalPost.com; Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer; and Nigel Chandler, a British reporter. They were each given a one-year suspended sentence on charges of illegal entrance into Libya and fined a small amount of money.
According to Libyan government spokesperson Mousa Ibrahim, who spoke to the Associated Press, the journalists were given the choice to either stay and work in Libya legally, or to leave for home. They have chosen to return home and will be escorted to the Tunisian border on Thursday.
Gillis, Foley, and Brabo were captured on April 5 outside the city of Brega, where their car was stopped by crossfire between the Libyan rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi. The journalists were then taken by the loyalists into government custody in Tripoli.
Before being moved to a women’s facility on April 19, Gillis remained in a coed detention center with Foley and Brabo for the first two weeks. She was allowed to call home twice, once on April 21 and again on April 26.
Foley and Brabo each made contact once with their family during the six weeks of captivity. An intermediary was allowed to visit Foley and Gillis in mid-May and reported that they were in good health, according to GlobalPost.
It is unclear when and under what circumstances Chandler was captured.
Anton Hammerl, a photographer with dual citizenship of South Africa and Austria, was originally believed to be detained with Gillis, but later was found to have been captured elsewhere. His whereabouts remain unknown, and the Libyan authorities denied that he is being held by the government, according to GlobalPost.
Ibrahim said it was difficult to distinguish journalists from “foreign, special, European army experts fighting with the rebels,” and apologized “if anyone was mistreated.”
Gillis graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in medieval history and a master’s degree in Germanic Languages and Literatures. She was a teaching fellow for nine undergraduate courses and a history adviser at Adams House during the 2008-2009 academic year.
—Staff writer Heng Shao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.