Benghazi, 8 June:
The Libyan coast guard arrested three Italian fishing boats on early yesterday evening, Thursday. They were spotted fishing in . . .[restrict]an area that Libya declared to be its territorial waters in 2004 but which has not so far been internationally recognized.
The three boats from Mazara del Vallo, the main fishing port in Sicily, were boarded by Libyan authorities and taken to Benghazi where they arrived at 00.30 on Friday morning. The men, 12 Italians and seven Tunisians, were reportedly terrified when the boats were taken over in the disputed waters; they initially thought they were being attacked by pirates. But they say there was no violence or mistreatment. After they arrived in Benghazi they were allowed to sleep on board their vessels.
Although it is a Friday, an investigation has already been launched in Benghazi into the matter. An official there said that Libya planned to charge the men with illegal fishing and that the matter could come to court as early as Saturday morning. “We have to wait an see what now happens”, the official said.
The Italian Consul-General in Benghazi has been to see the men and provide them with assistance. He has put them in touch with their families in Italy.
On a number of occasions this year, Egyptian fishermen have also been arrested in the disputed waters and taken to Benghazi. [/restrict]