Foreign Minister Bob Carr
Foreign Minister Bob Carr

Hopes fade for lawyer's release

FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr says hopes of an early release for the Australian lawyer being detained in Libya on suspicion of spying are fading.

Melinda Taylor and three other International Criminal Court lawyers, who are being held in Zintan, were arrested by Libyan rebels after a meeting with Saif al-Islam, the son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Senator Carr confirmed on Wednesday morning that Australian Ambassador to Libya David Ritchie spent 90 minutes with Ms Taylor on Monday.

Mr Ritchie was not granted one-on-one time with Ms Taylor; he and envoys from the countries of the other detainees conducted a group meeting.

"It wasn't altogether satisfactory that they didn't have private time, but that was denied by the Libyans who also continue to dent the possibility of Melinda making phone contact with her husband and her mother and father in Brisbane, and that's of concern to us," Senator Carr told ABC radio on Wednesday morning.

Senator Carr said the Libyans were "attaching a very great importance to this case".

"The disturbing part of this report is that there's no evidence of a Libyan interest in an early release," Mr Carr said.

"Indeed, there's the suggestion that they might be seeking to hold the detainees for 45 days, which they said is the time they need for these sorts of investigations."

While Ms Taylor was being held under guard, Mr Ritchie had confirmed that the prison accommodation was "surprisingly good", with air-conditioning, a television, fridge and fruit and yoghurt.

Senator Carr said Ms Taylor "appeared to be well and in reasonable spirits given the circumstances".

"Australia's position is for Melinda Taylor to be released immediately," Mr Carr said.

"As a representative of the ICC, Ms Taylor and her colleagues were doing the important work of the court and are entitled to immunity."

Senator Carr expressed his gratitude to Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz, who had assisted Mr Ritchie and the delegation to travel to the area.


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