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British News Crew Denied Bail

August 24, 2000

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ Four members of a British television news crew charged with espionage by Liberia have been denied bail.

Judge Timothy Swote said the team from London-based Insight News Television _ Sierra Leonean Sorious Samura, Britons David Barrie and Tim Lambon and South African Gugu Radebe _ could face the death penalty and so could not be granted bail.

Defense attorney Varney Sherman disputed that espionage was punishable by death and said he would appeal the decision to deny bail. According to Sherman, the most the journalists could get is 10 years.

Sherman said the four were being abused in jail. ``They were threatened. They put cockroaches into their cell,″ he said. ``They even threatened that they will cut them up.″

The four men, dressed in street clothes and rubber sandals, appeared tired and dejected in court Wednesday. They were arrested Friday at their hotel in Monrovia, capital of the West African nation.

Authorities say their videotapes contained material ``damaging″ to the Liberian government. The indictment said the documentary they were making would try to support British and American allegations that Liberia is involved in diamond smuggling and gun running for rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Insight News says the men are bona fide journalists and had official permission to work in Liberia.

Former President Jimmy Carter added his voice Wednesday to the growing chorus of international appeals for the team’s release.

``Their detention will only bring further international scrutiny on Liberia’s commitment to basic human rights,″ Carter said in a letter to President Charles Taylor.

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