Libya's feared intelligence service has "detained and tortured" four Christians for converting from Islam, as part of a wider crackdown on people embracing Christianity, human rights group said in comments monitored by Worthy News Thursday, March 12.
U.S.-based International Christian Concern (ICC) said the believers, whose names were not identified, were imprisoned for the past seven weeks in Tripoli, Libya's capital.
"Libya's External Security Organization is believed to be behind the detention and torture of the Christians" ICC said, citing local sources.
The security agents have reportedly barred families from visiting the detained converts and ICC said they "are putting severe physical and psychological pressure on the Christians in order to force them to reveal the names of other converts."
"Fearing for their lives, converts from Islam are on the run," the group added.
ICC said the detention and alleged torture of the Christian converts come despite efforts by Libya to improve ties with the international community.
Libya began re-establishing relations following the recent lifting of sanctions, which were imposed due to the country's involvement in the bombing of an American airliner, in which 270 people were killed.
However, "by torturing the four Christian converts and stifling religious freedom, Libya is once again violating basic principles of the international human rights law," ICC said. Libyan officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
"We call upon Libyan officials to stop torturing the four Christians and release them from detention," added ICC Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho. "Libya must respect the rights of its citizens to worship freely and not to be tortured. We particularly ask the Libyan leader and the current head of the African Union, Mr. Muammar Gaddafi, to set the prisoners free and demonstrate his country's commitment to respect human rights."
The group said it had urged its supporters to "pray for the safe release of the detained believers" and "for comfort and strength of their families."