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Cablegate: Embassy Denied Access to Detained Human Rights Activist

VZCZCXRO1007
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0411 1431445
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 221445Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3466
INFO RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0509
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0678
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0626
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1097
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0805
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0483
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3970

C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000411

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG (NARDI, JOHNSON) AND DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 5/22/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR LY
SUBJECT: EMBASSY DENIED ACCESS TO DETAINED HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
FATHI EL-JAHMI

REF: TRIPOLI 401 CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b) 1. (C) Summary: An Embassy officer was prevented by security officials from entering the hospital room in which detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi had previously been housed. Those officials refused to confirm whether el-Jahmi was still at the Tripoli Medical Center, and instructed medical staff not to give any information about el-Jahmi's whereabouts. Our Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) interlocutor claimed that we had come outside visiting hours and recommended that we only visit if accompanied by an el-Jahmi family member (a new requirement). He claimed that whether we visited was a matter for the Embassy, family and the hospital's administration to decide, and said that the QDF no longer desired to play a role. Post has scheduled a meeting on May 26 with the Tripoli Medical Center's chief administrator to follow up. End summary. 2. (C) Following an earlier unsuccessful attempt to visit detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi (reftel), P/E Chief on May 22 visited the room in the cardiac ward at the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) where el-Jahmi had previously been housed. Plainclothes security officials physically barred P/E Chief from entering the room, claiming el-Jahmi was no longer there, and instructed medical staff at the adjacent nurses' station not to give P/E Chief any information regarding el-Jahmi's whereabouts. They refused to confirm whether el-Jahmi was still in the cardiac ward, or whether he was at the TMC. (Note: A glimpse through the door suggested el-Jahmi was not/not in the room; however, the door to an adjacent room in which el-Jahmi has sometimes been housed was closed and locked. End note.) 3. (C) P/E Chief telephoned Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) Director Dr. Yusuf Sawani to express concern that Post was being denied access to el-Jahmi. The QDF previously told us that el-Jahmi was no longer the responsibility of the QDF or the GOL, but was in the custody of his family, which could determine who could visit him. P/E Chief said that it was curious that individuals apparently unaffiliated with his family barred us from entering el-Jahmi's room and prevented us from engaging with hospital staff to determine his whereabouts. Sawani had no response, but called back a short time later, saying the TMC's visiting hours began at 4:00 p.m. (P/E Chief had arrived at 10:30 a.m.), and that hospital regulations must be observed. (Note: P/E Chief has successfully visited el-Jahmi at various times of day on previous occasions. A number of other patients in the ward were receiving visitors at the time our attempted visit; if visiting hours are delimited, they do not appear to be closely observed. End note.) He further recommended that P/E Chief only visit el-Jahmi if accompanied by a member of el-Jahmi's family. (Note: This is a new requirement. We have previously only been required to "coordinate" our visits with the family. End note.) Sawani claimed el-Jahmi's family was uneasy with the Embassy's involvement in the case and would prefer that we not visit el-Jahmi. Regardless, Sawani said, whether we visited el-Jahmi was "between you (the Embassy), the family and the hospital's administration". Reiterating phraseology we've heard before, he said the QDF and GOL had "washed their hands" of el-Jahmi's case, stressing that he "had much more important matters to attend to than Fathi el-Jahmi". 4. (C) P/E Chief subsequently visited the office of the TMC's chief administrator, Dr. Omran Shammam. Shamman was unavailable, but his office director, Taher al-Bakush, scheduled an appointment for P/E Chief to meet with Shammam on May 26 and said he would attempt to confirm whether el-Jahmi is at the TMC. 5. (C) Comment: Having been caught in an apparent lie - claiming el-Jahmi had been discharged and returned to his family home - the QDF and GOL appear to be stalling for time. Having made the family wary of engaging with the Embassy and requiring us to be accompanied by a family member, the QDF and GOL have given themselves (from their perspective) a potential fig leaf for denying us access. Post will visit Dr. Shammam on May 26 in an attempt to confirm that el-Jahmi remains at the TMC and gather information about his medical condition. End comment. STEVENS

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