Cablegate: Embassy Visits Human Rights Activist Fathi El-Jahmi
DE RUEHTRO #0142/01 0521802
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211802Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3119
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0423
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0616
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0562
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1009
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0739
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0427
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3598
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TRIPOLI 000142
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/21/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR LY
SUBJECT: EMBASSY VISITS HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST FATHI EL-JAHMI
REF: A) TRIPOLI 93, B) TRIPOLI 90, C) STATE 10444, D) STATE 8768 CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: An Embassy officer met with Libyan human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi on February 20 at the government-run hospital in Tripoli where he has been held since July 2007. El-Jahmi said that he had suffered from a number of serious ailments when he was transferred from prison to the hospital, and that his condition began to improve markedly only after doctors began providing the full range of medical care he required in December 2007. In January 2008, his son was permitted to visit him on three occasions -- the first family visitation he had been allowed in four years. He said he was not aware of any offer to release him to the care of his family, and underscored that he would not agree to remain silent about his political views as a condition for his release. The Embassy visit was arranged by the Qadhafi Development Foundation. End summary.
2.(C) Following up on CDA's request earlier in the week for Embassy access to Fathi el-Jahmi, Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) Executive Director Youssef Sawani called a meeting with P/E Chief February 20 to inform the Embassy that it could have a "quick, discreet visit" with el-Jahmi later that day. Noting that the decision to facilitate Embassy access to el-Jahmi was hotly debated within the GOL, Sawani stressed that Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, son of leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, personally intervened to argue that it would constitute an important gesture to the USG. The visit should be interpreted as "a clear reflection" of Said al-Islam's desire to keep U.S.-Libya bilateral relations on a positive course, he said.
MEETING WITH EL-JAHMI
3.(C) P/E Chief, together with Muhammad Tarnesh, Executive Director of the QDF-affiliated Human Rights Society of Libya, met briefly with el-Jahmi's treating physician, Dr. Abdulrahman Mehdy, and then spent nearly an hour with el-Jahmi at the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) February 20. (Note: The TMC is considered one of the best hospitals in the country. Care at the facility, which features better-trained physicians and more diagnostic and laboratory equipment than other hospitals, is good by comparison with the relatively low standards of other medical facilities in Libya. End note.) Present in the room with el-Jahmi were Tarnesh, Mehdy and an individual who was identified as his nurse, Abdullah Bashir.
4.(C) El-Jahmi is housed alone in a clean, single-bed room that features a wash basin and private toilet facilities. The room was located in what appeared to be a less heavily-trafficked section of the hospital; however, other than a lock on the room door, there were no guards or other visible indications of extra security. El-Jahmi said he had been in the same room since being admitted to the TMC in late July 2007. Other than trips to the lab and other diagnostic centers in the TMC, he has not been allowed to leave his room. Noting that he has not been allowed to raise the blinds in his room, he complained that he has not seen natural sunlight since his admission.
INITIAL MEDICAL CONDITION AND TREATMENT
5.(C) Dr. Mehdy indicated that the el-Jahmi's condition was "severe" when he was transferred from the Abu Salim prison facility on Tripoli's outskirts to the TMC in late July 2007. At that time, el-Jahmi was hypertensive, had congestive heart failure and severe difficulty breathing, suffered from severe edema and diabetes, and had urological complications attendant to prostitis. El-Jahmi was unable to lie down because of his breathing difficulties (he could only sleep in a sitting position) and could not urinate because his groin had swelled so much due to edema. Mehdy stressed that he performed diagnostic exams and prescribed treatment (catheterization to alleviate the urological problem) immediately after el-Jahmi's admission. El-Jahmi received no further treatment until late December/early January.
CURRENT MEDICAL CONDITION AND PROGNOSIS
6.(C) El-Jahmi was clear-eyed, alert and lucid during the meeting. While clearly advanced in age and somewhat limited by his medical conditions (his breathing was observed to be a bit labored), he was animated and verbose. El-Jahmi said treatment at the TMC, once administration of his prescribed medication commenced in late December/early January, had been very good and assessed that his condition had improved a great deal. Dr. Mehdy concurred, explaining that el-Jahmi's breathing has improved dramatically (he is now able to lie down), his edema has abated considerably (there is still some swelling in his legs), his blood sugar levels have normalized, and EKG tests show his heart function has improved significantly.
7.(C) Assessing el-Jahmi's prognosis, Dr. Mehdy said another EKG will be performed in several weeks to determine whether a coronary angiography will be needed to correct diminished capacity in the left ventricle of el-Jahmi's heart. He cautioned that el-Jahmi's overall condition, particularly his heart pumping capacity, is not strong enough at present for the procedure to be performed; at least two to three months of further treatment and recovery are needed. El-Jahmi is on a restricted, low-salt and low-sugar diet to moderate the effects of his diabetes; that condition appears to have stabilized but will require continued monitoring. Regarding el-Jahmi's urological issues, Dr. Mehdy has twice recommended to el-Jahmi that he have surgery for his prostate condition (once at the time of admission, and again in January). El-Jahmi has so far refused to consent to the procedure. Dr. Mehdy clearly indicated that the TMC has the resources to provide all care needed to stabilize and/or treat el-Jahmi's conditions.
FAMILY VISITATION LIMITED
8.(C) El-Jahmi said he his eldest son had visited him three times on three consecutive days in January. Before that, it had been more than four years since his wife, four daughters and two other sons had been able to visit him. He complained that he does not have access to radio, television or reading materials, either at the prison at which he was previously detained or at the TMC. He complained that even his copy of the Koran had been confiscated in late January for reasons that were unclear to him.
LEGAL STATUS UNCERTAIN
9.(C) El-Jahmi said he had not been advised, formally or informally, that the GOL might release him to return home for further treatment, but said he "sensed" that the GOL's attitude concerning his case might be changing. (Comment: The QDF's Sawani emphasized to the CDA February 21 that the QDF has made it clear to the family that Fathi could be released to their care, but so far the family has not followed up on the offer, nor on the QDF's requests that they return to the hospital to visit Fathi. End comment.) El-Jahmi did not know whether the son who visited him or other family members have received any further information concerning his possible release. He did not know whether he would be able to travel abroad for treatment if he were released and noted that the GOL holds his passport. El-Jahmi said he understands he has been convicted under a Libyan law that criminalizes advocating a political position inconsistent with the 1969 revolution, and for defaming leader Muammar al-Qadhafi.
10.(C) Asked by P/E Chief whether -- as has been suggested by QDF -- he would be willing to agree to an "understanding" that he would remain silent about his detention or any political issues in exchange for the opportunity to return to his home, El-Jahmi repeatedly made it clear that he is not/not prepared to agree to that stipulation, or any other condition, to secure his release. He described himself as "a democratic man" and said he was unwilling to sacrifice his political beliefs to gain his release. Saying that his principal offense had been to criticize Qadhafi and his regime, he said the Libyan courts had ruled that he was mentally incompetent. Joking, he said the prevailing mentality in Libya is such that to criticize Qadhafi was considered the act of a madman.
11.(C) While we lack the expertise to comment on the adequacy of el-Jahmi's medical treatment, El-Jahmi himself reported that, at least as of December 2007, he has been receiving care that TRIPOLI 00000142 003 OF 003 has led to an improvement in his health. As for his future, El-Jahmi, who appeared to be in full possession of his mental faculties, clearly expressed his intention to reject any deal the GOL might offer to allow him to return home in exchange for his silence. End comment. STEVENS 0 02/21/2008 9427 PREL,PGOV,PHUM,PINR,LY EMBASSY VISITS HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST FATHI EL-JAHMI An Embassy officer met with Libyan human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi on February 20 at the government-run hospital in Tripoli where he has been held since July 2007. El-Jahmi said that he had suffered from a number of serious ailments when he was transferred from prison to the hospital, and that his condition began to improve markedly only after doctors began providing the full range of medical care he required in December 2007. In January 2008, his son was permitted to visit him on three occasions -- the first family visitation he had been allowed in four years. He said he was not aware of any offer to release him to the care of his family, and underscored that he would not agree to remain silent about his political views as a condition for his release. The Embassy visit was arranged by the Qadhafi Development Foundation.