Libya releases four Egyptian Christians: MENA

CAIRO Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:25pm EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Libya on Thursday released four Egyptian Christians who spent more than a month in jail after being accused of proselytizing, Egypt's state news agency MENA said.

Quoting church sources, MENA said Libyan authorities had dropped the charges against them. A fifth detained Egyptian died in a Tripoli prison last month, it added.

The release comes after Egypt extradited two members of the regime of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi earlier this month. An Egyptian court barred the extradition of a cousin of Gaddafi claiming to hold Egyptian citizenship.

Last month, Egyptian judicial sources told Reuters Egypt was seeking to swap the Libyans with the Egyptian Copts.

On Wednesday, Libya decided to grant Egypt, struggling with economic and political turmoil, a $2 billion five-year interest-free loan.

Libya's small Christian community has expressed fears over Islamist extremism as the government struggles to impose its authority over armed groups which have refused to lay down their weapons since the 2011 war that ousted Gaddafi.

In December, an explosion at a building belonging to a Coptic church in Dafniya, close to the western Libyan city of Misrata, killed two Egyptian men and wounded two others.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Ali Abdelatti; editing by Andrew Roche)

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