EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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May 29, 2011

Jailed in Libya for 44 days, journalist home and thankful

NORTH ANDOVER — James Foley sat at a picnic table in a New Hampshire park last weekend near his parents' home.

His brother Michael Foley, of North Andover, said his two children were kicking a bouncy ball as James, surrounded by family, took in the scene.

James Foley was back in the United States after 44 days in Libyan prisons.

"You could just see the smile on Jim's face," said Michael. "The things you take for granted."

Libyan soldiers loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi released James Foley on May 18, six weeks after taking him and two other journalists captive near Brega. Foley was in the country covering the ongoing revolt against Gadhafi for the Boston-based news website GlobalPost.

James Foley said his time in Libya — where he was detained for reporting without permission, shuffled between three prisons, transported while blindfolded or handcuffed, and watched a fellow journalist lose his life — has given him a deeper respect for the United States.

"I took it for granted. I'll admit it," James Foley said. "Due process of law. A government that will advocate for its citizens even if you're a nobody. I think I've come back with a tremendous appreciation for our system, our civil rights."

Foley made it out of Libya May 18, crossing into Tunisia with the help of members from the Hungarian Embassy in Libya. Hungarian diplomats had lobbied the Libyan government for James' release after Turkish officials evacuated their embassy — and their effort to free Foley.

"There was no formal agreement with the (U.S.) Department of State," Michael Foley said. "(The Hungarians) were doing it because it was a humanitarian effort and they wanted to help."

A private security team met James and Connecticut-native Clare Gillis at the border, transporting them to a hotel resort in Djerba.

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