Foreign Minister Bob Carr confirmed on Wednesday that Aussie lawyer Melinda Taylor was under detention by Zintan authorities, belying an earlier report by the Libyan central government that she was being held outside of a prison facility.
In an official release, Senator Carr reported that David Ritchie, Australia's official envoy to the North African nation, had spent considerable time with Ms Taylor, who along with three International Criminal Court (ICC) delegates was detained Thursday last week following the group's meet with Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Muammar Gaddafi.
She was accused of passing secret messages to Seif al-Islam, according to Libya's ICC envoy Ahmed Jehani, which allegedly came from Mohammed Ismail, an aide of the Gaddafis wanted by the new government in Tripoli.
Libyan officials have revealed earlier this week that Ms Taylor will be subjected to series of investigations that would require her to remain in custody for at least 45 more days.
No access to Ms Taylor and the rest of the detained ICC team was granted by local and national Libyan authorities until Ambassador Ritchie met with them, which Senator Carr said happened Tuesday night in Zintan, located some 180 kilometres southwest of Tripoli.
The visit was facilitated by Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Aziz, who Senator Carr said had accompanied Ambassador Ritchie and the other detainees' country representatives to the undisclosed Zintan prison facility.
"The Ambassador examined the conditions of the prison and reported they were generally adequate," the Foreign Minister said in a statement.
Basing on Ambassador Ritchie's assessment of the prison facility where Ms Taylor and the ICC delegates were being held, Senator Carr said the group was in a new air-conditioned holding place with provisions of "a fridge filled with fruit and yoghurt."
The visit lasted for about 90 minutes, Senator Carr said, with Ambassador Ritchie indicating in his report that "Ms Taylor appeared to be well and in reasonable spirits given the circumstances."
"Ambassador Ritchie told me he had spoken directly with Ms Taylor and let her know she had the full support of the Australian Government," Senator Carr added.
There were indications, however, that the whole visit was being monitored by Zintan authorities as the Australian envoy also informed Senator Carr that guards were at hand while the detainees and the visitors were interacting, according to The Australian.
While Ms Taylor has been allowed to contact her husband as of Tuesday night, Senator Carr said that the Australian government had reiterated to Libyan authorities "for full consular access to Ms Taylor and for her to have access to her lawyer."
"Australia's position is for Melinda Taylor to be released immediately ... as a representative of the ICC, Ms Taylor and her colleagues were doing the important work of the court and are entitled to immunity," the Foreign Minister declared.
Yet the prospect that Ms Taylor will regain freedom soon remains dim at the moment as Senator Carr admitted that "the disturbing part of (Ambassador Ritchie's) report is that there's no evidence of a Libyan interest in an early release."
"Indeed, there's the suggestion that (Libyan authorities) might be seeking to hold the detainees for 45 days, which they have said is the time they need for these sorts of investigations," Senator Carr told ABC on Wednesday.
Media reports also suggested that Ms Taylor and the ICC delegates were caught in a power play between Tripoli and the splintered authorities in Zintan, which to date have refused to hand over Seif al-Islam to the custody of the central government.
To contact the editor, e-mail: