BOSTON — The friends and family of GlobalPost correspondent James Foley, who was detained by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi almost two weeks ago, held a vigil Sunday where they appealed directly to the Libyan government for his immediate release.
Foley was first captured on April 5 while reporting on the outskirts of Brega, a key oil town in the eastern part of the country that has seen some of the heaviest fighting between Gaddafi forces and the rebel opposition since the conflict began. Foley had been reporting on the rebel army and their movements since the middle of March.
Foley, 37, was captured alongside Clare Morgana Gillis, 34, an American freelance journalist working for The Atlantic and USA Today; and Manuel Varela, 30, who works under the name Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer on assignment for the European Press Agency. It is thought that a fourth journalist, Anton Hammerl, who is South African, was also detained.
A source in Tripoli said that Foley, Gillis and Varela were spotted inside a detention facility in the capital on April 7. But the Libyan government has so far not officially confirmed that it is holding the three journalists and has not allowed anyone to visit or contact them.
“This evening marks the 13th night since our son, James, has been a prisoner of the Libyan government,” said his father, John Foley, during a press conference at the Foley home in New Hampshire on Sunday.
“We love our son very much and we want and need him to be back safely here in New Hampshire. We are so grateful to all those in this country and around the world who have worked for James’ freedom and that of his fellow journalists. We are praying for you, son, and for your swift return home.”
A candlelight vigil was held after the press conference at Foley's family church in Rochester, NH. Similar vigils were held elsewhere in the country, including in Chicago, where Foley studied journalism at Northwestern University.
Human Rights Watch on Friday urged the Libyan government to release or at least provide information about all of the 15 journalists it believes are being detained in the country.
"Libyan and foreign journalists are facing unlawful restrictions from the government, including incommunicado detention in Tripoli," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. "If the government has nothing to hide, then it should let the media do its work."
Human Rights Watch said that nine foreign journalists and six Libyan journalists are now detained or missing in Libya.
"It's now over a week since Clare Gillis, James Foley, and Manu Brabo were sent to Tripoli, and they still haven't been allowed contact with the outside world," Bouckaert said. "Their isolation is compounding the suffering of their families."
The three reporters were apparently driven to the government stronghold of Sirte on April 6 after being captured in Brega the day before. They were then transferred to a detention facility in Tripoli on April 7, sources inside the country reported. When spotted in Tripoli, the three detained journalists appeared to be healthy.
GlobalPost continues to work all the necessary and appropriate channels to secure the safe release of Foley and Gillis. GlobalPost remains in close touch with The Atlantic, USA Today, the State Department and other organizations that may influence a positive outcome.
“We remain optimistic, but continue to be concerned about James Foley and Clare Gillis as they have now been held in captivity for nearly two weeks,” said GlobalPost President and CEO Philip S. Balboni.
Turkish diplomats in Tripoli said they were discussing the detentions with Libya’s government and hoped to secure the release of the journalists soon.
Turkey is one of the few countries still operating an embassy in Tripoli and has helped free a number of other journalists detained there, including four New York Times reporters captured last month.
A Turkish official said that he hoped to have "good news" soon.
“We deeply appreciate the very important behind-the-scenes work being carried out by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and its staff who are negotiating with the Libyan authorities to secure the release of our journalists,” Balboni said.
Foley's parents visited GlobalPost's Boston office on Friday to meet with Balboni and the editorial staff.
"We were moved by their strength and positive attitude during this extremely difficult time,” Balboni said. “The love they have for their son shone through, as did their pride in the reporting work to which Jim is so committed. We are all awaiting some positive news from the many people and organizations that are working with us to secure a safe release.”