Four foreigners detained on suspicion of spreading Christianity in Libya have been accused of espionage, a senior security official said yesterday.
Libyan officials say that the group includes a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African and an Egyptian.
Police chief Abdel-Salam el-Barghathi said embassy officials have been allowed access to the four, but the group had raised suspicions by refusing to meet any representatives.
Egyptian detainee Sherif Ramsis said he was on a missionary trip to Libya to spread Christianity, but was not aware of espionage allegations against him.
Officials said the four were arrested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi with tens of thousands of Christian books, booklets and stickers in their possession.
Mr Ramsis said he did not request assistance from the Egyptian embassy in Libya because he assumed authorities would not help him. Egypt is the Arab world’s largest Muslim country and home to the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.
“Everything is in God’s hand,” Mr Ramsis said, admitting that he was on a proselytising mission in Libya.
Libya has just a handful of churches. Spreading Christianity was banned under Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.