Freed ICC lawyer Melinda Taylor and colleagues leave Libya


Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor (R) and her interpreter from Lebanon, Helene Assaf (L) are seen following their release from detention in Zintan, Libya, on July 2, 2012.



Four officials from the International Criminal Court (ICC), including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and Lebanese-born interpreter Helene Assaf, have been released from detention in Zintan, southwest of Libya's capital Tripoli.

They had been held on suspicion of spying since June 7, after traveling to the hilltop town to help prepare the legal defense of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, the Herald Sun explains.

The case had plunged the interim government into "its biggest diplomatic controversy since last year's revolution," according to Reuters.

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The four were freed on Monday after an apology from the ICC, whose president, Sang-Hyun Song, traveled to Zintan, the news agency says.  The UN Security Council, NATO and the Australian government had also lobbied for the release.

"I wish to apologize for the difficulties which arose due to this series of events. In carrying out its duties (the ICC) has no intention to compromise the national security of Libya," Song reportedly told a news conference.

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The newspaper The Australian confirmed that Melinda Taylor touched down in Rome later on Monday.  The other two ICC staff released overnight were Russian Alexander Khodakov and Esteban Peralta Losilla from Spain, the ABC reported.

The BBC quotes a senior member of the Libyan attorney-general's office as saying that the four are still scheduled to appear before a court in Tripoli on 23 July for a final ruling. "We expect them to come back for the hearing but if they don't, a ruling will be made in absentia," the source reportedly said.