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Cablegate: Fathi El-Jahmi Remains in Hospital, Despite Reports of His Release

VZCZCXRO5284
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0401/01 1361457
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 151457Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3448
INFO RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0507
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0676
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0624
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1095
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0796
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0474
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3952

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000401

SIPDIS DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL (KWIRAM) E.O. 12958: DECL: 5/14/2018

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR LY

SUBJECT: FATHI EL-JAHMI REMAINS IN HOSPITAL, DESPITE REPORTS OF HIS RELEASE REF: A) JOHNSON-STEVENS EMAIL 05/12/2008, B) TRIPOLI 375, C) TRIPOLI 229, D) TRIPOLI 280

CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, U.S. Embassy - Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(C) Summary: Contrary to claims by the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) that detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi was discharged from hospital on/about May 8 and returned to his family home in Tripoli, el-Jahmi remains at the Tripoli Medical Center and his current medical condition is uncertain. Family members visited him on May 14 -- their first visit in over one month -- and expressed concern to P/E Chief for their safety and unease with Embassy involvement in the case. End comment. FINDING EL-JAHMI

2.(C) Per ref A instructions, the CDA called QDF Executive Director Dr. Yusuf Sawani on May 13 to inform him that an Emboff would visit the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) on May 14 in an effort to confirm that detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi had in fact been discharged from hospital and returned to his family home in Tripoli. CDA noted that the Embassy had been unable to reach the family to ascertain el-Jahmi's whereabouts. (Note: As reported ref B, Sawani informed the CDA on May 8 that el-Jahmi had been discharged from the TMC and had returned to his home to recuperate. End note.) Sawani phoned the CDA the following day, May 14, and said that the QDF had no objection to a hospital visit, but repeated that el-Jahmi had returned to his home in Tripoli. Pressed by the CDA as to whether el-Jahmi was at the TMC or at his home in Tripoli, Sawani equivocated, saying he "believed" el-Jahmi was at his home, adding that he "may" have returned to the TMC because of his heart condition.

3.(C) On May 14, P/E Chief visited the room at the TMC in which el-Jahmi had been previously been housed. Five plainclothes security officials encountered on previous visits were in and around the room. El-Jahmi was not in the room; the senior security official told P/E Chief el-Jahmi was in another wing undergoing x-rays and other undefined diagnostic procedures. Staff at the nurses' station located directly across from el-Jahmi's room, clearly nervous about being seen to speak with P/E Chief, declined to state whether el-Jahmi had ever been discharged from the TMC as claimed by Sawani on May 8. P/E Chief overheard security officials placing numerous telephone calls, including several to the QDF.

4.(C) After waiting for approximately an hour and a half, three members of el-Jahmi's family -- eldest son Muhammad, daughter Lamia and daughter Hana -- appeared. Muhammad el-Jahmi, clearly unhappy that an Emboff was present, declined to speak with P/E Chief. No member of el-Jahmi's family had been able to visit him since April 3, the last day P/E Chief visited him. The last information the el-Jahmi family had received about their father's medical condition came in a telephone conversation with a man identified as el-Jahmi's nurse, Abdullah Bashir, more than three weeks ago.

EL-JAHMI'S FAMILY UNDER PRESSURE & THREATENED

5.(C) xxxxxxxxxxxx said, Muhammad, was under "tremendous pressure" from officials of the GOL and QDF and believed contact with Emboffs was "very dangerous" for the family. Explaining Muhammad's refusal to speak with P/E Chief, xxxxxxxxxxxx said he had been working for several weeks to orchestrate a visit to their father, and had been anxious to avoid giving the appearance that the family's request was coordinated with the Embassy. After weeks of waiting, the family had been hastily summoned a short time earlier that day to the TMC. xxxxxxxxxxxx said el-Jahmi family members in Benghazi and Tripoli are under continuous, close observation by security officials, and are "very afraid". Asked whether the family had received any threats, xxxxxxxxxxxx declined to say anything further. About five minutes after their arrival, Muhammad summoned his two sisters and they left the wing without having seen their father.

6.(C) Shortly after el-Jahmi's family departed, the senior security official told P/E Chief it would be better if he returned on another day to visit el-Jahmi. Emphasizing that he was not preventing access to el-Jahmi, he said he had just spoken with the man described as el-Jahmi's nurse, Abdullah Bashir, who indicated that the diagnostic procedures would take at least another hour, and that el-Jahmi would be too tired after they were completed to meet with P/E Chief. (Note: P/E Chief had attempted to call Bashir before el-Jahmi's family TRIPOLI 00000401 002 OF 002 arrived; Bashir did not take the calls. End note.) The security official pressed P/E Chief hard to specify the date and time he intended to return to visit el-Jahmi; he declined to do so.

7.(C) Comment: We strongly suspect the "coincidence" of P/E Chief's visit and that of el-Jahmi's family members was coordinated. While the QDF has insisted since May 8 on the fiction that el-Jahmi has been in his family's custody and not/not that of the GOL, it is not clear what the QDF and/or GOL hoped to gain by dissembling about the fact that el-Jahmi had been discharged from hospital and returned to his family home in Tripoli. From our perspective, the QDF was either misinformed by elements of the GOL or, more likely, was a witting participant in the effort to deceive us about el-Jahmi's whereabouts. Either way, until his family saw him on May 14, el-Jahmi had effectively been in incommunicado detention for 41 days. His present medical condition is uncertain. End comment.
STEVENS

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