Cablegate: Embassy Tripoli
DE RUEHTRO #0229/01 0771647
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 171647Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3242
INFO RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0458
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0635
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0586
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1040
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0764
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0398
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3731
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TRIPOLI 000229
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/17/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR LY
CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: Representatives of Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (HRW/PHR) visited Tripoli in mid-March to perform an independent medical assessment of detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi and discuss his release with interlocutors from the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF). El-Jahmi is expected to be released from the hospital by late March in exchange for his tacit agreement to remain silent about his detention and refrain from making political statements. He is expected to convalesce initially in Tripoli for several weeks in lodging provided by the QDF, before traveling to either Benghazi for further recovery at his family home there, or to the U.S. for further diagnosis and treatment. The QDF has indicated that it does not oppose facilitating issuance of a passport to el-Jahmi or his travel abroad, provided that he honors the terms of the agreement for his release. El-Jahmi's medical condition remains serious but is essentially stable; PHR assesses that he is medically able to return home provided he receives needed ongoing care on an outpatient basis. El-Jahmi's family has expressed concern about underwriting such treatment; the QDF may help defray those expenses. HRW/PHR, which will likely issue a press statement coordinated with QDF today or tomorrow, believe the focus for the next several weeks should be on confirming el-Jahmi's safe return home, verifying his access to needed outpatient care and facilitating issuance of a passport and arranging travel abroad for further care. End summary.
2.(C) Human Rights Watch (HRW) Senior Emergencies Researcher Fred Abrahams and Acting Regional Relations Director Gasser Abdel Razzak gave P/E Chief a readout March 15 of their meetings in Tripoli with detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi and his family. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) representative Dr. Scott Allen, who accompanied Abrahams and Abdel Razzak and performed an independent medical assessment of el-Jahmi, had already departed Tripoli. Abrahams and Abdel Razzak conveyed the substance of his medical assessment. El-Jahmi's daugher, Najla, who lives in Benghazi, traveled to Tripoli to meet with HRW/PHR and discuss next steps in her father's case. El-Jahmi's son, Muhammad, and his wife also met with the HRW/PHR team.
EL-JAHMI FREE TO LEAVE HOSPITAL, IN FAMILY'S CUSTODY
3.(C) The Qadhafi Development Foundation's (QDF) Human Rights Director, Saleh Abdulsalam, was the primary interlocutor for HRW/PHR; Abrahams and Allen also spoke by telephone with QDF Executive Director Dr. Yusuf Sawani, currently on travel outside the country. HRW/PHR described the QDF's cooperation as "superb, forthright and professional". Abdulsalam stressed that from the perspective of the GOL and the QDF, el-Jahmi's legal issues were "closed matters" and the GOL was "out of the picture". El-Jahmi had been free to return home since his "release" was announced on March 11; his family, who have legal custody of him now, may take him home at any time provided that his treating physician signs a medical release indicating it is medically safe to do so. (Note: El-Jahmi's treating physician told P/E Chief March 12 that in his professional opinion, el-Jahmi could safely leave hospital (ref A). He has since then indicated that el-Jahmi requires an additional one week to ten days in the hospital for "beta blockers" treatment for his heart. The Libyan doctor has consulted both the family and PHR's Allen regarding this recommended treatment, and the family is in agreement. End note.)
EL-JAHMI EXPECTED TO BE RELEASED BY LATE MARCH
4.(C) The family, led by daughter Najla, told HRW/PHR and the QDF they are prepared to take el-Jahmi home as soon as they can prepare his room in the family home in Tripoli. (Note: The home was ransacked and then occupied and damaged in 2004 when el-Jahmi, his wife and his son, Muhammad, were detained. The QDF has offered to provide a small house or apartment in Tripoli for el-Jahmi to stay in while the family's Tripoli home is being rennovated. End note.) The tacit condition for his release to his family is that he remain silent about his detention and refrain from making political statements. (Note: This is consistent with what Sawani told P/E Chief on March 3 (ref B). End note.) El-Jahmi's daughter, Najla, reportedly played a key role in convincing her father that he should agree to remain quiet, stressing to him that his focus - for now - should be on recovering his health and protecting his family.
TRAVEL ABROAD FOR TREATMENT POSSIBLE, IF EL-JAHMI REMAINS QUIET TRIPOLI 00000229 002 OF 004 ABOUT DETENTION
5.(C) Conceding that HRW's preference would have been to physically escort el-Jahmi out of the hospital and to his home, Abrahams said the QDF flatly rejected that scenario, stressing the need to avoid the perception that HRW/PHR and/or the U.S. had "dictated" el-Jahmi's release to the GOL. The plan, coordinated with the QDF, is for el-Jahmi to convalesce for several weeks at the family home in Tripoli. After that, it is expected that he will fly either to Benghazi to continue convalescing at his family home there, or to Cairo and onward to the U.S. for further medical evaluation and treatment. Allen stressed that el-Jahmi will not be fit to travel by air for at least several weeks. Abdulsalam, confirming earlier remarks to Emboffs, told HRW/PHR that the QDF "is not opposed" to el-Jahmi traveling abroad for treatment, but stressed that he would need to honor the terms of his release in order for such to occur. HRW/PHR will engage with Abdulsalam in coming weeks to encourage the GOL to issue el-Jahmi a new passport so he may travel; Post will dual-track those efforts with Sawani.
HRW/PHR STATEMENT EXPECTED
6.(C) Allen and Abdel Razzak departed Tripoli on March 15; Abrahams is scheduled to depart today. HRW/PHR will remain in telephone and email contact with multiple members of el-Jahmi's family to confirm that he is eventually transferred home without complication. HRW/PHR intend to release a joint press statement, previewed with the QDF, on/about March 18. According to Abrahams, the statement will: 1) confirm el-Jahmi's release and welcome it as a positive development; 2) acknowledge the QDF's constructive role in securing el-Jahmi's release; 3) stress that el-Jahmi should not have been detained in the first place and express concern about the manner in which legal proceedings were conducted, and 4) note that while his medical care dramatically improved in the last two months, there is no question but that the net result of his detention and the delay in providing him treatment was a dramatic deterioration in his health. The QDF's Abdulsalam disputed the last point, asking how HRW/PHR could determine that el-Jahmi's deterioration resulted from conditions of his detention. Reprising arguments we've heard from Sawani, Abdulsalam claimed that many factors, including el-Jahmi's age (he's 66 years old) and the possibility that he had refused treatment, may have precipitated his medical complications. HRW/PHR pushed back and made it clear that the language will be included in the statement.
MEDICAL CONDITION: RELATIVELY STABLE (FOR NOW), BUT FURTHER CARE NEEDED
7.(C) HRW/PHR visited el-Jahmi several times at the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC), where he remained as of March 15. Four to five plainclothes security officers were present. The man described as el-Jahmi's nurse, Abdullah Bashir, was also present and facilitated access to el-Jahmi. Allen reviewed el-Jahmi's case extensively with his treating physician, Dr. Abdulrahman Mehdy, and performed an independent medical examination of el-Jahmi. Allen and Abdel Razzak were the only individuals in the room during the examination. Allen concurred in Mehdy's diagnosis and virtually all prescribed treatment, which he conveyed directly to el-Jahmi's family, as well as to Mehdy and the Qadhafi Development Foundation. (Note: There were professional differences over the relative merits of different medications, but no other points of disagreement. End note.)
MARKED IMPROVEMENT IN CARDIAC CONDITION
8.(C) Allen assessed el-Jahmi's condition as being essentially stable, but noted that his heart condition is serious and that he is at some risk of heart attack "at any time". El-Jahmi was "not a well man" and had been "pushed, medically, to the edge" by the lack of treatment in 2007. Nonetheless, el-Jahmi's his treatment at the TMC - once initiated in late December/early January - was "good" and his health had improved "markedly". El-Jahmi was able to walk (with difficulty) and his heart efficiency rate improved from 17 percent in July 2007 to 38 percent in late February, and to 52 percent on March 14. Allen performed a basic cognitive awareness test and assessed that el-Jahmi did well considering his long period of isolated detention and lack of access to needed medication. He did show signs of short term memory loss; Abrahams and Abdel Razzak said there were points during their visit when el-Jahmi "wasn't there, mentally". Allen concurred with Mehdy's assessment that from a medical standpoint, el-Jahmi may be safely released from TRIPOLI 00000229 003 OF 004 the TMC and treated on an outpatient basis. Allen noted that given his current condition, el-Jahmi would have already been discharged from a western hospital to free up bed space.
FURTHER DIAGNOSTIC EXAMS NEEDED
9.(C) Nonetheless, el-Jahmi does have medical issues that will require ongoing care. Allen recommended that el-Jahmi undergo two procedures in the next several months: a biopsy of his enlarged prostate gland and a heart catheterization procedure to evaluate blockages and bloodflow. Both procedures are performed regularly at the TMC; Allen assessed the overall quality of care and the center's ability to safely perform the two procedures as good. El-Jahmi agreed to undergo the biopsy procedure; he has not yet consented to the heart catheterization. In addition, Allen assessed that the stent implanted in el-Jahmi's heart in Jordan in 1995 is likely nearing the end of its lifespan and will need to be replaced.
OUTPATIENT CARE CRITICAL
10.(C) Allen stressed to the family the need for proper outpatient care after el-Jahmi's expected release. The QDF clearly understands ongoing, outpatient treatment and access to prescribed medications and diagnostic exams will be needed, and agreed to help facilitate those. Per the QDF, there will be no restrictions on el-Jahmi's ability to return to the TMC for ongoing care on either an inpatient or outpatient basis; however, the family flatly stated they do not trust Dr. Mehdy and will seek another treating physician in consultation with Allen. The family believes it will not be a problem to identify a physician in Benghazi should el-Jahmi return there in future; however, they expressed concern about identifying an appropriate physician in Tripoli. HRW and PHR requested copies of el-Jahmi's full medical records, including treatment at the TMC and any treatment administered prior to his admission there.
FAMILY CONCERNED ABOUT FINANCING CARE, QDF MAY HELP
11.(C) Abrahams stressed the family's concern about how they will underwrite el-Jahmi's ongoing care. Family properties in Benghazi and Tripoli had been confiscated or damaged in connection with el-Jahmi's long-running criticism of the GOL; some properties were also sold to help make ends meet. (Note: El-Jahmi's contentious relationship with the GOL goes back more than two decades and has progressively worsened. End note.) The family asked HRW whether it could request compensation from the QDF and/or GOL. Stressing that HRW would not/not be directly involved in such negotiations, Abrahams said QDF Human Rights Director Saleh Abdulsalam suggested the QDF could help defray el-Jahmi's medical expenses and explore the possibility of compensation. El-Jahmi's son, Muhammad, is to contact Abdulsalam directly to follow up on those issues.
12.(C) Abrahams said that from the perspective of HRW/PHR, the focus in the next several weeks should be on: 1) confirming that el-Jahmi has safely returned home; 2) verifying access to appropriate outpatient care (to include resolving attendant financial issues), and 3) urging the QDF and GOL to issue el-Jahmi a passport and facilitate his travel abroad for further treatment. HRW/PHR may try to facilitate a visit by a cardiologist from Cairo or Tunis in approximately two weeks to assess el-Jahmi's condition and outpatient care. 13 (C) Comment: HRW/PHR believe that the QDF and GOL have an interest in seeing that el-Jahmi's health does not seriously deteriorate while he is in Libya and will therefore be likely to facilitate his travel abroad for care. We concur, but his physical security in the near-term remains a concern. Sawani told P/E Chief on March 3 that the QDF had to intevene in 2004 to pre-empt efforts by unspecified regime elements to kill el-Jahmi outright (rather than detain him) after he gave an interview to satellite television channel al-Hurra criticizing Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and the GOL. The presence of security officials outside el-Jahmi's room at the TMC is doubtless motivated in part by a desire to monitor his activities and visitors, but also by the GOL's interest in ensuring his physical safety. Post will remain in contact with el-Jahmi's family members and will visit him at home after his expected return to assess his condition there and arrangements for his outpatient treatment. We will also remain in contact with the QDF to urge issuance of el-Jahmi's passport and dispensation for TRIPOLI 00000229 004 OF 004 him to travel abroad. Whether el-Jahmi honors the terms of the tacit agreement for his release will be critical in determining the extent to which we, the QDF and HRW/PHR are able to ensure his physical safety and facilitate issuance of a passport and travel abroad for treatment. End comment. STEVENS