Cablegate: Follow-Up On Human Rights Activist Fathi El-Jahmi
DE RUEHTRO #0183/01 0640801
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 040801Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3176
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0436
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0620
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0565
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1021
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0743
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0431
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3658
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TRIPOLI 000183
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/3/2028
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR LY
SUBJECT: FOLLOW-UP ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST FATHI EL-JAHMI
REF: A) TRIPOLI 142, B) GRAY-CDA STEVENS EMAIL 3/02/08, C) TRIPOLI 93 CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) Executive Director Dr. Youssef Sawani agreed to try to facilitate a second Embassy meeting with ailing human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi to help clarify the apparent dissonance between the QDF's characterization of el-Jahmi's condition and that of some members of his family. The specific goals of an Embassy visit would be to assess el-Jahmi's current medical condition, confirm that his treating physicians believe he can safely return home, and solicit his views regarding options for his medical care were he to be released. Stressing that the GOL has "no interest" in seeing el-Jahmi's condition deteriorate, Sawani said el-Jahmi would not/not be under house arrest and would be able to seek medical treatment at any facility, which the QDF could, if needed, help facilitate. A complicating factor is el-Jahmi's family's refusal to take him back, despite repeated requests by the QDF and more recently GOL security personnel. Travel abroad for treatment was not an immediate possibility, but could be in the future if el-Jahmi honored a tacit agreement to remain silent after his release. Sawani said Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights would be allowed to visit Libya but the timing was still in question. End summary.
FOLLOW-ON VISIT FOR EMBASSY REQUESTED
2.(C) P/E Chief met with Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) Executive Director Dr. Youssef Sawani on March 3 to follow up on the case of detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi. Thanking the QDF for its facilitation of the Embassy's visit to el-Jahmi February 20 (ref A) and a visit by el-Jahmi's family shortly thereafter, P/E Chief noted that there appeared to be some disagreement between the QDF's characterization of el-Jahmi's condition and that of some members of his family. After their visit, some members of his family had apparently communicated with USG officials in Washington, expressing concern that el-Jahmi's serious condition meant that his release could pose a threat to his medical prognosis. They also expressed concern that, if released, he might not enjoy access to medical care. A follow-on visit by Post to el-Jahmi in the near future - the goals of which would be to assess el-Jahmi's current medical condition, confirm that his treating physicians believe he can safely return home, and solicit his opinion regarding options for medical care - would be useful to help resolve conflicting accounts.
3.(C) Expressing "disappointment" with statements attributed to el-Jahmi's family in the wake of their recent visit, Sawani agreed that another visit by Post could be helpful and said he would try to arrange same with relevant GOL security organizations. He noted that recent statements by el-Jahmi's U.S.-based brother, Muhammad el-Jahmi, were viewed by some quarters of the GOL as evidence that he was motivated by "political opportunism"; the QDF's ability to secure Embassy access to el-Jahmi on short notice may have been circumscribed by that perception and by the fact that el-Jahmi's family had still not responded to the offer for them to take him home. (Note: Sawani phoned CDA later that night to convey a message from QDF Chairman Saif al-Islam to the USG that GOL security personnel had approached the family to request that they agree to take their father home, but the family had again refused. The QDF and the GOL, he said, were now at a loss as to what to do with him, for if they released him now and his family did not accept their responsibility to care for him, he could become destitute. Saif al-Islam asked that this message be conveyed to Senator Biden, as well, since he had written to Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi asking for the Leader's personal intervention to effect el-Jahmi's release from detention. End note.)
QDF, GOL HAVE "NO INTEREST" IN SEEING EL-JAHMI'S CONDITION WORSEN
4.(C) Responding to statements by international human rights NGO's to the effect that releasing el-Jahmi from the Tripoli Medical Center could pose a threat to his health, Sawani said the QDF had carefully assessed el-Jahmi's condition based on input from his treating physicians and had determined that he could now safely return home provided that he receive follow-on medical care. Such had not been the case earlier in the year, but el-Jahmi's condition continued to improve. Stressing that the QDF and GOL had "no interest" in seeing el-Jahmi's condition worsen, Sawani reiterated that a condition for el-Jahmi's release was an understanding that he would continue to receive medical treatment after his release (see text of the QDF's letter, reported ref C).
"NO IMPEDIMENT" TO CARE AT OTHER LIBYAN MEDICAL FACILITIES
5.(C) Turning to treatment options, Sawani said he "did not TRIPOLI 00000183 002 OF 003 foresee any impediment" to el-Jahmi receiving medical care at other medical facilities if he were released. The court did not formally sentence el-Jahmi during his 2004 trial; it found him mentally incompetent and recommended that he receive appropriate medical care. (Note: el-Jahmi told us his understanding was that he had/had been convicted under a Libyan law that criminalizeds advocating a postioin inconsistent with the 1969 revolution, and for defaming leader Muammar al-Qadhafi. End note.) El-Jahmi would not/not be subject to house arrest or its equivalent and there would be no restrictions against him seeking care at any medical facility if he were released. He would enjoy the rights "of any Libyan citizen" to come and go as he pleased, provided that he acceded to the tacit understanding that he would refrain from speaking about his detention or engaging in political discourse.
QDF MIGHT HELP FACILITATE ALTERNATIVE CARE
6.(C) Noting that some medical facilities, particularly private clinics, might be reluctant to provide care to el-Jahmi given sensitivities attendant to his case, P/E Chief asked whether treatment at facilities such as the private Libyan-Swiss Clinic and St. James Hospital would be possible, and whether the QDF might help facilitate same if such were necessary. Sawani agreed that the QDF might, if needed, play a positive intermediary role in facilitating care at those facilities or others. Saying the physician currently treating el-Jahmi at the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) had been el-Jahmi's physican for more than five years (pre-dating his trial and incarceration), Sawani suggested that an option could be continued treatment at the TMC on an outpatient basis. (Note: Dr. Abdulrahman Mehdy and el-Jahmi both told P/E Chief during the latter's visit to the TMC that Mehdy had been el-Jahmi's physician for over five years. End note.) Conceding that local measures were perhaps wanting in some regards, Sawani noted that the TMC was nonetheless "a center of medical excellence" by Libyan standards.
TREATMENT ABROAD POSSIBLE "DOWN THE ROAD", WITH STIPULATIONS
7.(C) Asked whether el-Jahmi might travel abroad for treatment, Sawani said his understanding was that el-Jahmi does not currently possess a passport. Emphasizing that he was offering his "personal opinion", he said he believed that if el-Jahmi were released and honored the conditions for that release, he could be permitted to travel outside Libya for treatment "down the road". Pressed for clarity, Sawani demurred, saying his comment did not represent an "official position" on the issue of travel abroad, but was rather offering his sense of future possibilities based on conversations concerning el-Jahmi's case to which he had been privvy. Reitarating earlier points about the political sensitivies of Muhammad el-Jahmi's perceived exploitation of the case, he stressed that Fathi el-Jahmi and the family would need to demonstrate commitment to the agreement to refrain from public commentary for "a reasonable period of time" to secure permission for el-Jahmi to travel abroad for treatment, but said he believed such would be possible.
8.(C) Asked whether the QDF expected to be able to facilitate a visit on/about March 12 by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and Human Rights Watch, Sawani conceded that he wasn't certain. He believed that the visit would happen, but remarks by the family after their recent visit to el-Jahmi, together with public statements by international human rights NGO's and the proposed visit's proximity to the General People's Congress (currently underway), had made it difficult for the QDF to push for the trip to happen in the immediate future. Pressed, he agreed to follow up on the issue with relevant GOL decision-makers to see whether there might still be some possibility of facilitating on/about March 12.
9.(C) Sawani clearly understands that the QDF and GOL face a potential credibility gap in terms of the dissonance between the QDF's characterization of the case and the family's purported observations (as reported by Muhammad el-Jahmi). His remarks concerning the GOL's neuralgia about Muhammad el-Jahmi's public statements and outreach to international human rights NGO's suggest that quiet engagement in the Embassy-QDF channel remains the best current option for maintaining positive momentum. Treatment abroad in the near term does not currently appear possible, but Sawani took pains to emphasize it could be in the future. The focus for now should be on assessing el-Jahmi's current medical condition, determining whether he wants to TRIPOLI 00000183 003 OF 003 return home under the stipulated conditions and whether his family will agree to take him back and care for him, and ascertaining where and how he would obtain necessary medical treatment in future if he were released. End comment. STEVENS 0 03/04/2008