American released in Libya

American Matthew van Dyke talks about his ordeal in a notorious Libyan prison.

August 28, 2011 13:35
2 minute read.
Matthew van Dyke talks about being Libyan prisoner

Libyan jail break 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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He came to Libya a freelance journalist at the start of the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi...

But Matthew van Dyke, a 32-year-old American from Maryland, was abducted after his group came under attack in Brega in March. He had been held prisoner in a notorious jail in Tripoli since then.

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The prison in Abu Salim was filled with anti-Gaddafi rebels-- many of whom were tortured.

But last week, as rebels took control of Tripoli, the facility was opened, and the prisoners were released.

"It was a prison break. Mass prison break. Prisoners came to my cell and busted off the locks. I thought they were guards coming to kill me. I thought the prisoners still might kill me, because of Gaddafi propaganda maybe they did think I was CIA, thought they were maybe just criminal convicts and they might hate the CIA as much as anybody, on Gaddafi's side, 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," said Matthew van Dyke.

To pass the time, many prisoners would write verses from the Koran on the walls... van Dyke kept busy reading the list of ingredients on milk cartons.

"Once you are in the cell there you are in the cell. There is no recreation yard, you know, they didn't give you anything to read or to look at except I read the ingredients on the milk boxes and when I got a German milk box somehow that had five languages on them, that was quite a treat, to keep that one, you know try to learn words in various languages or anything to try to break the monotony of staring at a wall you know. Yes I thought for quite a while that was my existence for a long time, that would be it." he said.

Allegations abound that during 40 years of Gaddafi rule hundreds of prisoners were tortured and killed at the top-security Abu Salim jail.

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