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Christians say they were tortured in Libya

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

CAIRO — Dozens of Coptic Christians were tortured inside a detention center run by a powerful militia in eastern Libya, two of the recently released detainees told The Associated Press on Friday amid a wave of assaults targeting Christians in Benghazi and the latest instance of alleged abuse by Libyan security forces.

The two, among about 50 Egyptian Christians detained in Libya on suspicion of proselytizing, told of being rounded up in a market by gunmen who checked them for tattoos.

“They first checked our wrists searching for the crosses, and if they found them, we (had to) get into their cars,” said 26-year-old Amgad Zaki from the city of Samalout, 135 miles south of Cairo.

Zaki said a group of men — some in uniform and some in civilian clothes — rounded up Egyptians selling clothes in a market in Benghazi on Feb. 26. The Christians were forced to get into SUVs that carried the sign of Libya Shield One, one of the most powerful militias in Benghazi that is under the command of Islamist and ex-rebel Wassam Bin Hemad.

“They shaved our heads. They threatened to sever our heads in implementation of Islamic Shariah (law) while showing us swords,” Zaki said from the safety of his home.

During four days of detention, he said, they were flogged, forced to take off their clothes in cold weather and stand at 3 a.m. outdoors on a floor covered with stones.

Egypt's foreign ministry said its embassy in Libya was investigating the allegations.

The militia that held the group claimed it treated the Christian detainees well.

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