Cablegate: Mfa Weighs in On El-Jahmi Case
DE RUEHTRO #0275 0921337
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 011337Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3300
INFO RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0474
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0650
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0601
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1055
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0773
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0453
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3796
C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000275
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL E.O. 12958: DECL: 4/1/2018
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL PINR LY
SUBJECT: MFA WEIGHS IN ON EL-JAHMI CASE REF: TRIPOLI 266
CLASSIFIED BY: John T. Godfrey, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: In the course of a meeting on other issues, an MFA interlocutor cautioned that recent public remarks by USG officials on the case of detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi had not been helpful and could be construed as interference in Libya's domestic affairs. Unspecified elements of the GOL were angered by public comments on el-Jahmi's case at a conference on Libya in Washington. Post's channel for engagement on el-Jahmi has been restricted to the quasi-governmental Qadhafi Development Foundation; the MFA's intervention potentially represents a new wrinkle. From the GOL's perspective, the fact that the remarks at the conference were public likely had as much to do with its adverse reaction as the substance of the intervention. End summary.
2.(C) In a meeting with the CDA and Poloff on April 1 on separate issues, MFA Americas Desk Officer Muhammad Ayab asked the CDA for clarification on PDAS Feltman's March 31 remarks at a conference in Washington hosted by the Middle East Institute (MEI) and Libya's Green Book Society (GBS) calling for the immediate, unconditional release of detained human rights activist Fathi el Jahmi. Cautioning that such statements " ... will not help in building understanding", he added the GOL "hopes the U.S. will accurately understand the situation and avoid interference in Libya's domestic affairs". Reiterating points we've heard before from the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF), he said el-Jahmi had been transferred to the custody of his family and remained at the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) - under his family's supervision - for needed medical care. (Note: Reftel details Post's understanding of el-Jahmi's medical condition and issues preventing his discharge from the TMC. End note.) Feltman's remarks and U.S. involvement "could" be construed as interference in Libya's domestic affairs. (Note: Ayab did not appear to have a clear understanding of what the remarks actually were. End note.)
3.(C) Pushing back, the CDA reiterated points conveyed by NEA/MAG Director Elizabeth Hopkins to the QDF's Dr. Yusuf Sawani on the margins of the GBS/MEI conference: 1) our understanding is that there is no medical reason for keeping el-Jahmi in hospital; 2) el-Jahmi should be released from the TMC now; 3) there should be no formal conditions for el-Jahmi's release and, 4) it is expected that the QDF and GOL will ensure el-Jahmi's physical safety.
4.(C) Noting the use of the word "should", Ayab questioned whether the U.S. was dictating to the GOL that el-Jahmi must be released. The CDA clarified that at the conclusion of the Human Rights Watch/Physicians for Human Rights (HRW/PHR) visit in mid-March, there was a perceived common understanding between the QDF, HRW/PHR and the U.S. that el-Jahmi was expected to leave the TMC and return home on/about March 26. That had not occurred. Our position, based on our understanding of el-Jahmi's current condition - his cardiac condition was stable and his prostate condition was not serious - was that it was medically safe for the TMC to discharge him. Noting that el-Jahmi's case was the focus of considerable international attention, the CDA stressed that the Embassy had respected the QDF's preference for quiet engagement. The fact that we had commented publicly at the GBR/MEI conference underscored broad concern about the perception that the GOL and QDF were using el-Jahmi's prostate condition as a pretext to delay discharging him from hospital.
5.(C) Comment: Ayab's intervention on el-Jahmi's case represents a new development; post's communication since late last year on this issue has been restricted to QDF channels. Our principal interlocutor, the QDF's Dr. Yusuf Sawani, has been more measured in cautioning us against giving the appearance of meddling in an ostensibly internal Libyan matter. Ayab does not typically engage on these issues and did not appear to be fully briefed (his colleague, Muhammad Matari, typically handles such issues, but is in Washington for the GBR/MEI conference). Nonetheless, Ayab called the CDA after the meeting to stress that unspecified GOL elements were "angry" about Feltman's comments at the GBR/MEI conference. From the GOL's perspective, the fact that the remarks were public likely had as much to do with its adverse reaction as the substance of the intervention. End comment. GODFREY