After the Libyan foreign minister personally intervened to speed his release, an American teacher who had been held in Libya for more than six weeks has returned to the United States.
Fernando Espinoza, 29, arrived at JFK International Airport in New York on Monday afternoon to a warm welcome from his mother, Sara Espinoza, and executives from the charity Richardson Center, which arranged his homecoming.
“Of course, I made some mistakes, but several other parties made several mistakes as well, and it all simply snowballed,” Fernando Espinoza explained as he drove to his hotel.
Espinoza’s arrival on American soil brought relief to his mother, who said she had been provided little information about where and why her son, a former US Navy submariner, was being kept, or when he would be released. As Libya prepared for its first presidential election in a decade, her efforts to gain his release coincided with rising political tensions.
Sara Espinoza stated, “I’m simply pleased and grateful that he’s back and that this didn’t linger as long as it could have.”
According to Hamaima, Espinoza informed Libyan officials he hadn’t been vaccinated against Covid-19, so they gave him the first dose and were waiting to give him the second.
According to a Libyan government statement, the Libyan foreign minister interfered in the case “to protect the solid Libyan-American relations.”
Espinoza arrived in the United States on Monday via Cairo after demonstrating that a PCR test was negative, as required by Covid-19 entry guidelines for those countries.
Officials at the US State Department said they welcome reports of Espinoza’s release, but “we will not go into specifics at this time due to privacy reasons.”
A long stillness follows a weekend away.
Espinoza arrived in Libya in early October to begin a new career as an English teacher at a Tripoli-based international school. He decided to travel further afield a month later and hired a driver to take him to Sebha, a nine-hour trip south of Tripoli.
He intended to meet a local guide in Sebha and be driven to the Gaberoun oasis, a saltwater lake with an abandoned Bedouin town approximately 58 miles (93 kilometres) west of the city. According to Libyan officials and text messages given to his mother, he was detained before reaching Sebha.
5 November 2021
Now I’m free.
2:58 PM EST
FERNANDO is completely safe. It’s all a big misunderstanding.
2:58 PM EST
That’s fantastic; I’m overjoyed. How are you going to get back?
2:59 PM EST
2:59 PM EST
According to a Libyan official statement, Espinoza was held by security forces for “violating protocols and being in regions of tension without getting permission.”
According to friends who got information from the school, he was released and resumed his journey, but was caught on his return to Tripoli on November 9.
According to Hamaima, the deputy foreign minister, Espinoza had “violated his visa limitation,” breached his contract with the institution, and fled without notifying anybody where he was heading.
“This is not acceptable anyplace in the world,” Hamaima stated.
Espinoza told CNN that he was questioned about his presence in Libya, particularly why he drove south from Tripoli.
“They were making a lot of bogus claims (against me) about espionage, secret ops, election interference, and other things. As a result, they frightened me “he stated
Fernando is being sought.
Sara Espinoza got more concerned about her son’s location at home in Miami.
She contacted the nearest US Embassy, which is in neighbouring Tunisia, and consular officers there spoke with her son for the first time in late November. They assured Sara that he was well, that he had requested his medication, and that they wished to speak with her.
That opportunity arrived on December 21, when she and her son were able to chat for three minutes before he was told to hang up, she said. Sara noted that Fernando didn’t sound well, and he responded, “Mostly what I do is sleep, cry, and pray.”
Sara Espinoza resorted to the Richardson Center, a nonprofit founded by former Congressman Bill Richardson with a track record of negotiating hostage and prisoner releases, when it appeared that little progress was being made in securing his release.
According to the group’s vice president and executive director, Mickey Bergman, Espinoza’s release was negotiated with the help of the Qatari government, which has close ties to Libya, and US consulate officials.
“Of course, each instance is different,” he continued. “We got involved early enough in this case that the Libyan government genuinely wanted to address the situation, so it was easier on that side.”
“We’re grateful to the Libyan authorities for dealing with this so fast and without incident,” he continued.