JUNE 29 2007 21:38h
Police in Sierra Leone have detained a newspaper editor over an article about gifts from leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Police detained Philip Neville, managing editor of the Standard Times daily newspaper, after a search of the newspaper's offices which produced evidence that may lead to charges of sedition and criminal libel, the radio said.
Gaddafi held a big rally in the country's main stadium on Tuesday during a road tour of West Africa to drum up support for a continental government, which will be discussed at an African Union summit opening in Ghana on Sunday.
The Standard Times led Wednesday's edition with a report that Gaddafi had detailed gifts Libya had previously given to Sierra Leone, including two shipments of rice, that the government had not made public.
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said on Tuesday the rice had been sold to raise funds for a national social security unit to provide benefits to the unemployed, but revelations of the gifts have received broad coverage in local newspapers.
"Many news media have been talking about Col. Muammar Gaddafi's gifts, not just the Standard Times," New York-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres said in a statement on Friday.
"One has the impression that Neville was arrested in order to settle scores and to issue a warning in the run-up to the 11 August general elections," it said.
The constitution requires Kabbah to stand down ahead of elections which are scheduled for August, and his ruling Sierra Leone People's Party has selected his deputy, Solomon Bererwa, as its candidate to succeed him.
Gaddafi has a long history of involvement in civil conflict in West Africa, alluded to in previous editions of the Standard Times.
One issue of the newspaper showed a picture of Gaddafi alongside photos of Sierra Leone's notorious rebel leader Foday Sankoh, a child soldier and several children who had limbs hacked off by rebel during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
Sankoh received military training in Libya, where he met future Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, according to an indictment served against Taylor by Sierra Leone's Special Court, set up to prosecute war crimes committed during the war.
Taylor is on trial before a session of the court sitting for security reasons in The Hague, on charges of instigating murder, rape and mutilation during Sierra Leone's war.