CAIRO: Egypt repatriated 23 laborers early Thursday from western Libya after allegations that forces allied to the UN-recognized government had detained and abused them, private television channel CBC Extra and a security source said.
The 23 workers arrived at Marsa Matrouh, a Mediterranean resort town in northwest Egypt, the security source told AFP.
Prominent TV host Ahmed Moussa broadcast pictures of the men on their arrival draped in Egyptians flags and donning protective masks.
Photos of the #Egyptian workers who were detained in Libya upon their arrival at Salloum border crossing in Egypt
Egypt succeeded in returning them back due to efforts of several state services, on the head, the General Intelligence which was corrdinating with both #LNA & #GNA. pic.twitter.com/WBRDbgxSWG
— Mahmoud Gamal (@mahmouedgamal44) June 18, 2020
Earlier in the week, a video widely circulated on social media allegedly showing the laborers forced to stand on one leg with their bare feet on sand as they raised their hands.
The detained men in the footage, filmed in daylight, appeared to be repeating at the command of an unidentified man expletives against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Libya’s self-styled leader Khalifa Haftar.
The video immediately drew swift condemnation from senior Egyptian officials.
It “will not pass lightly and the Egyptian state does not allow assault on its citizens abroad,” immigration minister Nabila Makram was quoted as saying in local media.
Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord announced Wednesday the arrest of suspects in the alleged abuse after the outcry.
Police had “apprehended the people involved” and were preparing to present them to the prosecutor, the GNA’s interior ministry said in a statement.
Ahmed Al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, told a private Egyptian TV channel that the workers were being held by a “militia” aligned with the GNA.
The United Nations on Tuesday urged authorities in Tripoli to conduct a prompt investigation.
Libya has been mired in a protracted conflict since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
It is currently split between rival administrations in the east and west.
Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates and Russia, backs Haftar’s forces, while the GNA is most prominently supported by Turkey militarily.