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After over a month in captivity, Foley's journey takes a surreal turn.
GlobalPost correspondent James Foley spent 44 days in captivity inside Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. This is the fifth chapter of his story. For the full series, click here.
I was taken out of the paddy wagon and led into some kind of compound. They sat me down in a soft chair. I could feel that it was a luxurious place. I thought I might see an ambassador or some other sort of official. It was the only thing that made sense.
A man in a suit came in and said, “upstairs,” with a flourish of his hands. A servant took me up, past a living room with gold-cushioned furniture. I saw people sitting at a table out of the corner of my eye, and figured them to be prominent members of the regime, or guardians of it. I was led to a posh hotel-style room with twin beds.
I looked down the hallway and there, a sight I had cast aside as impossible, was Manu and Clare. “Hey bro!” I blinked at them. It was actually Manu and Clare. They had been sitting at the table and saw me come in. After a week apart, I’d decided it was foolish to even pray for a reunion.
I marveled at their stories of cigarettes, TV and fruit baskets, all plentiful at this three-floor villa, which was owned by a former Gaddafi general. His son, Saadi, had set up the accommodations, Clare said. And it was true, the guards had mistakenly taken Nigel instead of me.
“There were days when I had to decide whether I asked for you or more cigarettes,” Clare said, with her Cheshire smile.
That evening I took a long shower and slept in a soft bed. I woke up in the night, expecting the Arabic and cigarette smoke of the cell. Instead it was just the clipped voices of the BBC Nigel watched from the living room.
In the villa, TV satellite proved all the hopeful news we clung to in jail was wrong — there was no sign of a NATO invasion of Tripoli and there was no open rebellion there either. No one knew that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan a week earlier.
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Manu and I continued to pray, laying rugs in the room with the plants. We didn’t pray as much as in prison, but it helped to keep to some of the spiritual routines, as it was apparent we were only experiencing the illusion of freedom, and it was unclear how long they’d keep us there.
Two days later, the retired general appeared and politely told us we had visitors. The Hungarian ambassador, Ambassador Marton, was a joyful, balding man who liked to rub his hands together. We spoke for a few minutes before he asked, “And do you have any information where this man Anton is?” It was the first time anyone had asked about him. Our minds darkened. We said we didn’t.
“I think he’s already been released, right?” the general interrupted. It was an awkward interjection and I began to sense that we were getting the first glimpse of the kind of lies the regime had been spreading.
Despite the lie, we were all buoyed by an actual fact — an embassy was now involved. It was the first sign that diplomatic machinery had engaged. The Hungarians said they were appealing to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Marton said the regime was afraid of making a mistake by freeing us, that we might still have some value to them, especially if their backs were ever against the wall.
We might be there all summer, the general inferred. At least, he said, it was a nice place to stay. It was a strange phase of our imprisonment. It felt more like house arrest. The villa came with three course meals, hundreds of channels on cable and huge beds.
As the days dragged on and the Hungarians didn’t return, our frustrations grew. We felt we were close to being released, but had no definite way out. We weren’t allowed into the courtyard. We began to behave like a somewhat dysfunctional family on a holiday that’s lasted too long. Nigel spun out rather long