Freed US writer describes Libyan jail ordeal

Matthew Van Dyke, file photo, Feb 2011 Matt Van Dyke was being held in solitary confinement at the notorious Abu Salim jail

Matthew VanDyke, an American journalist who had been missing since March, has escaped from Libya's notorious Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, where he had been being held in solitary confinement.

The 32-year-old told the BBC World Have Your Say's Ros Atkins about his ordeal. Here are some extracts.

"I came here to Libya because I have a lot of friends in Libya. I was here before in 2008 driving motorcycles through the Arab world for six weeks. And when I saw what was happening here I feel like I needed to come here.

"I was in (the Libyan oil town of) Brega and I believe we were ambushed. I was hit in the head and I woke up in a room to the sounds of a man being tortured in the room above me.

"They took me to Tripoli and I spent about half the time in one prison and half the time in the other, and the entire time I was in solitary confinement.

"They told me nothing about what I was accused of, whether I would ever be released, they just locked me in a room and gave me food, kept me alive, and no real interaction with anybody for about six months.

"I thought they would execute me. I didn't know if a lynch mob would come and grab me. I never knew.

"They never told me anything. I had to figure it all out by listening to the conversations in Arabic of guards and prisoners, and reading the sob stories of other prisoners that they had scribbled on the wall to try to figure out where I was, and how long I might be kept, by how many etches were on the wall, by how long other prisoners had been kept.

"And nobody had been kept as long as me which started to make me worry. [Then there was] constant gunfire outside, the sounds of people being violently interrogated, on occasion I think whipped. I mean it was pretty horrible.

"I have OCD and I have it pretty bad and being in a filthy Libyan prison was not good for it at all. It was torture, that's what solitary confinement is.

"Then the prison was bombed and the prisoners made an escape, they came to my cell and they broke open the lock and we escaped from prison. We were not released, it was a prison break.

"One of the prisoners I escaped with who was a rebel fighter he was in there for those kind of activities. We met some people who took us to a compound. And then I was moved us to another compound so I am in a safe location right now in Tripoli.

"I decided I would leave when Gaddafi was gone and that's what I'm still going to do. When Gaddafi is gone, that's when I'll leave Libya. When Libya is free.

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