HOYANGER, Norway -- Two officers from a Norwegian freighter testified Sunday that Libyan security police claimed a crew member who died in their custody was acting as a messenger for enemies of Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy.
The two officers, second mate Ivar Nes and radio officer Preben Bang, testified that Libyan police said Bjorn Pedersen had hidden in the cargo two letters from exiled Libyans in Britain that were intended for delivery to anti-Khadafy rebels in Libya.
The security officers also said the letters were linked to an aborted attack in Tripoli that was believed aimed at killing Khadafy just three days before the ship arrived at Tripoli from Britain May 11, the crewmen testified.
'According to the security police, Pedersen made contact with a Libyan exile in a pub just outside the dock area in the English port of Grave's End where Germa Lionel loaded,' Nes testified.
'They claimed that Pedersen received an advance of 1,000 pounds sterling (about $1,300) for the delivery,' Nes told the official Maritime Board of Inquiry in the port town of Hoyanger in western Norway.
Pedersen, 52, was last seen alive May 13. He died in custody of the Libyans, who claimed he had jumped from the ship to kill himself.
Sigvart Dahl, captain of the freighter Germa Lionel, testified that the diplomatic split between London and Tripoli may have incited Khadafy's revolutionary security police to torture members of his crew.
'I think the Germa Lionel was the first cargo ship to arrive from Britain to Libya after the shooting,' said Dahl. London policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was shot to death during anti-Khadafy demonstrations outside the Libyan People's Bureau, or embassy.
When Libya refused to allow police to investigate the killing, London and Tripoli severed diplomatic relations.
In Saturday's testimony, Dahl described being held at gunpoint by Libyan police while hearing Pedersen's screams in an adjoining room.
Pedersen was later removed from the room and died in custody of the Libyans, who claimed he had jumped from the ship's deck to kill himself, Dahl said.
The Libyans held the ship and its crew some 70 days after Pedersen's death, demanding a apology from the shipper that one of his employees had committed suicide, a crime under Libyan law.
The Germa Lionel was not released until July 17 after Libyan authorities received a letter and a payment of $270,000.