Fears for British businessmen arrested by Gaddafi torturers

Fears were growing last night for two British businessmen who have been detained in Libya for nearly three weeks.

Brothers Zeyad and Ghazi Ramadan had been working at a software company in the north African country since December.

According to relatives, a group of men believed to be Internal Security Agency officials broke down the door of the house where the brothers were living in the western district of Tripoli at about 8pm on March 19.

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The men, who are originally from Leeds, were reportedly arrested, along with their two Libyan guests, Khaled Sury and another unnamed man, both businessmen.

After the arrest the security officials were said to have remained at the property for several hours, searching and confiscating a number of items including computers and documents.

Amnesty International called on the Libyan authorities to reveal the whereabouts of father-of-two Zeyad, 39, and Ghazi, 40.

The human rights charity said it was unclear why the men were arrested as, according to their relatives, they had no political affiliations and no role in anti-government protests.

Since the arrests, some of the brothers’ relatives in Tripoli have made inquiries about their whereabouts but have not been able to confirm where they are being detained or why.

Amnesty believes the men are being held incommunicado and are at risk of being tortured.

Kate Allen, the charity’s UK director, said: “We’re very worried for these four men and it’s disturbing that this amount of time has passed without word of their whereabouts.

“The Libyan authorities should reveal the men’s location and either immediately release them or charge them with a proper criminal offence.”

Meanwhile, a chartered ship carrying medical supplies from the British Government docked in the besieged port town of Misrata last night and Libyan rebels claimed they had been attacked in Nato air strikes.

Five rebels were killed in the apparent case of friendly fire on trucks and tanks in the eastern port of Brega as General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, told a Senate hearing in Washington that the conflict with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces was reaching a stalemate.

And the senior general said allied forces should not arm the rebels unless they had a better idea about who they were.

“My recommendation would be that we should know more about who they are before we make any determination to arm them,” Gen Ham said.

There was anger in the town of Ajdabiyah, where the 20 or so wounded were taken to hospital, while Nato said it was investigating an attack by its aircraft.

It came as a Danish ship, the Marianne Danica, which was chartered by the UN’s World Food Programme, arrived in Misrata, carrying £130,000 of aid from the UK.

The cargo, part of the British aid effort to Libya which has topped £10m so far, included medicine for 30,000 people for the next month, high-protein biscuits for 10,000 and water purification tablets for 2,000 families.

It is the largest consignment of British-funded aid to reach Misrata so far.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “While the fighting means it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the situation on the ground, we’ve had reports that water and electricity have been severely disrupted, that there are shortages of food and medical supplies, and that local people can’t leave freely.

“It’s safe to presume that the situation right now is pretty grim. The supplies that we’re providing will meet the immediate needs that are inevitable after more than a month of almost total isolation.

“But it also sends a message to the people of Misrata that they haven’t been forgotten by the rest of the world.”

The British Government has also sent emergency shelters to more than 10,000 people inside Libya.

China is also said to be willing to buy the first oil cargo from the rebels, although traders have warned that it could be some time before exports from the country reach substantial levels.