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Sister of British journalist held in Libya hopeful for release

From Nima Elbagir, CNN
updated 12:12 PM EDT, Fri March 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Journalists Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies were seized in February
  • Montgomery-Johnson's sister says his family hopes for good news soon
  • A Libyan militia accused the two men of lacking proper immigration papers
  • British government sources said the pair have been handed over to Libyan authorities

London (CNN) -- The sister of a British journalist seized by a Libyan militia group last month said she is hopeful he will be freed soon after he was handed over to the central government this week.

British government sources said Wednesday that Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies had been transferred to the transitional government in what one called a possible step toward their freedom.

Mel Gribble, sister of Montgomery-Johnson, told CNN that the family had been "buoyed up" by the handover to Libyan authorities and was "just waiting again" for the news of the two men's safe release.

"We just look forward to hearing some good news in the next day or two," she said Thursday in an interview in her home in the Welsh countryside.

Libyan militias 'out of control'

The journalists were seized in late February, along with the Libyans who accompanied them, according to Human Rights Watch.

Libya's transitional government had been trying to get the militia to hand over the two men, the group said.

Gribble said the past weeks had been a "whirlwind of stress and anxiousness" as the family sought to deal with the situation.

"It has been an all-consuming, full-time job to try and ensure Gareth and Nick's release," she said.

Gribble described hearing the news of her brother's capture by the militia group as "a physical and emotional terror. Your body is almost cut in two. ... It's terrifying."

The Saraya Swehli militia accused the journalists, who work mainly for Iran's state-run Press TV, of lacking proper immigration paperwork.

Gribble said her brother's passport was valid, and that although she was aware there had been a "difficulty with visas," he was not alone in having that issue.

The militia group told Human Rights Watch that it did not have faith in the central government, a rights group official said in February.

Some militias that established themselves to fight dictator Moammar Gadhafi have remained intact and outside government control since Gadhafi's government fell in August.

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