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Cablegate: Developments in El-Jahmi and Boufayed Human Rights Cases

VZCZCXRO5037
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0943/01 3471630
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 121630Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4225
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1337
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0694
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0838
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0781
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0961
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0648
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4747

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000943

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG (NARDI, JOHNSON) AND DRL/NESCA (JOHNSTONE, KWIRAM), NSC FOR YERGER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2018
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV LY
SUBJECT: DEVELOPMENTS IN EL-JAHMI AND BOUFAYED HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

REF:
A) TRIPOLI 280,
B) TRIPOLI 266,
C) TRIPOLI 925,
D) TRIPOLI 472,
E) TRIPOLI 819,
F) TRIPOLI 468 (NOTAL)

CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary: An official of the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) invited CDA to meet for an update on the Fathi el-Jahmi and Boufayed group human rights cases. He said el-Jahmi remained hospitalized with a heart condition, and the QDF was in contact with his family to arrange for his treatment at a private clinic (in Libya) or overseas. He gave us an opening, saying the QDF was now willing to coordinate with el-Jahmi's family and the Embassy to arrange to transport el-Jahmi abroad for medical treatment. The QDF had successfully lobbied for the release of most of the members of a group led by self-described regime critic Dr. Idriss Boufayed; two members of the group remained in prison in connection with criminal charges that pre-dated their arrest in February 2007 in connection with a planned peaceful demonstration in Tripoli. While the developments are positive, the views of the QDF on the el-Jahmi case do not necessarily represent those of the ultimate decision makers on this issue (i.e., old guard regime figures and Muammar al-Qadhafi himself). Nevertheless, we hope the offer represents a genuine opening and propose that post follow up on this end to meet with el-Jahmi's family members and with el-Jahmi to assess his medical condition and wishes with respect to medical travel. End summary.

QDF OFFERS TO COORDINATE EL-JAHMI'S POSSIBLE TRAVEL ABROAD FOR TREATMENT

2. (C) On instructions from QDF Chairman Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, Saleh Abdulsalam Saleh, Director of the QDF's Human Rights Committee, updated CDA December 11 on the status of detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi. According to Saleh, el-Jahmi remained in the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) for treatment of a heart condition and other medical problems. (Note: Ref A details el-Jahmi's medical condition during Post's last visit to him in April. End note.) Saleh said he had been in direct contact with el-Jahmi, his wife Fawzia and his eldest son, Muhammad, over the past several weeks. He had met with Muhammed three times in the run-up to the recent Eid al-Adha holiday (celebrated locally December 7-10) and had offered to arrange for the family to visit el-Jahmi during the holiday. Saleh claimed that the family had declined to do so, ostensibly because of the difficulty of traveling from Benghazi, where they reside. As a result, FAJ had spent the holiday alone. (Note: Post's understanding is that while most of el-Jahmi's extended family reside in and around Benghazi, his wife and several of his children spend most of their time in Tripoli. End note.) Saleh claimed that el-Jahmi's eldest son, Muhammad, had not been in contact with his father's doctor at the TMC to inquire about his condition. (Note: See ref C for details on threats to the family, particularly to Muhammad, who was was under "tremendous pressure" from GOL and QDF officials. End note.)

3. (C) Saleh said the QDF had offered to move el-Jahmi from the TMC to a private clinic (in Libya), but the family had chosen not to accept the offer. Saleh claimed the QDF wants to shift responsibility for el-Jahmi's care to his family; however, the family has not agreed. (Note: See ref B for details on the QDF and GOL's stipulation that Muhammad and Fawzia el-Jahmi sign a statement pledging that el-Jahmi would refrain from speaking with "anyone in any channel" about political issues or his experience in detention as a condition for his release from the TMC to the family's home, which el-Jahmi refused to allow. The QDF's Executive Director, Yusuf Sawani subsequently told the CDA that the requirement had been dropped; however, the family has told us it has not. End note.) Responding to CDA's question as to whether the QDF had asked el-Jahmi about his wishes, Saleh said it was difficult to have a rational conversation with him as he appeared confused and mentally unstable - shouting one minute, calm the next. Saleh gave us an opening, saying the QDF was now willing to coordinate with el-Jahmi's family and the Embassy to arrange to transport el-Jahmi abroad for medical treatment, and mentioned Jordan as a possibility (Egypt is another possible venue the QDF mentioned previously).

MOST OF BOUFAYED GROUP RELEASED

4. (C) On the case of the group led by self-described regime critic Dr. Idriss Boufayed, Saleh said Idriss Boufayed was expected to travel imminently (on/about December 12) for medical treatment. (Note: He suffers from stomach cancer and, per ref E, has residency in Switzerland and is expected to travel there for treatment. End note.) Saleh said the QDF had successfully lobbied for the release of all but one member of the rest of the group, who were convicted and sentenced on June 10 of planning to to foment rebellion against "the people's authority system". TRIPOLI 00000943 002 OF 002 He offered no detail on their legal status, but said they were now "with their families". (Note: As reported ref D, Idriss Boufayed and 10 others received sentences of six to 25 years in June in connection with a planned peaceful demonstration in Tripoli's Martyr's Square in February 2007. As reported ref E, Idriss Boufayed was released on humanitarian grounds on October 8, leaving 10 members of the group in prison. End note.)

5. (C) Separately, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Society of Libya (HRSL), told P/E Chief on December 11 that all but two (vice the one cited by Saleh) of the 10 members had been released and had returned to their homes; Jamal al-Haji and Faraj Humeid remained in prison. (Note: The individuals released are believed to be as follows: Al-Mahdi Humaid, Al-Sadiz Salih Humaid, Ali Humaid, Ahmad Yusef al-Ubaidi, 'Alaa al-Dirsi, Farid al-Zuwi, Bashir al-Haris and Al-Sadiq Qashut. Jamal al-Haji is a dual Danish-Libyan citizen and is the subject of a potential collective EU demarche requesting consular access to him. End note.) xxxxxxxxxxxx had personally escorted several home and was in the process of visiting the others. xxxxxxxxxxxx said they had not yet been pardoned, a process that required a legal hearing. It was expected that a hearing would be held in the coming week and that they would be pardoned then. xxxxxxxxxxxx said the two individuals who remained in prison were being held for "separate legal issues" unrelated to their arrest in February 2007 with the Boufayed group. (Note: As reported ref C, xxxxxxxxxxxx previewed the release of some of the Boufayed group members on December 2 and speculated then that the members of the group whe were not released would likely be those who refused to sign statements agreeing to refrain from speaking publicly about their trials or detention. End note.)

6. (C) Comment: The fact that most of the Boufayed group has been released and that Idriss Boufayed is expected to travel abroad soon for medical treatment represents a very positive development. Post will work through channels here to confirm whether Boufayed actually travels, and to track whether the members of the group who have been released are in fact pardoned. The Boufayed group's case has been less heavily publicized and sensitive than that of el-Jahmi, making it comparatively easy for the regime to make what it views as concessions. On el-Jahmi, Saleh's offer to help coordinate contact with the family and el-Jahmi's potential travel abroad is a potentially significant opening; however, neither his views nor those of his boss, QDF Chairman Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, necessarily represent those of the ultimate decision makers on this issue, who include old guard individuals such as Abdullah al-Sanussi and, critically, Muammar al-Qadhafi himself (see ref F (NOTAL) for details on their views). In that regard, Post notes that QDF representatives have previously claimed on several occasions that el-Jahmi had been released into his family's care, had left the TMC and could be permitted to travel abroad for medical care if he agreed to remain silent. Those claims turned out to be untrue. It is not clear whether the QDF deliberately misled us or acted in good faith and was subsequently overruled by other regime elements (we suspect a bit of both). Nevertheless, we hope the most recent offer from Saleh turns out to be a genuine opening and propose the following next steps for post:
1) request a meeting through the QDF with el-Jahmi's family members to discuss his medical condition, their ability to visit him and their understanding of his wishes with respect to travel for treatment;
2) request that the QDF coordinate a visit to el-Jahmi by an Emboff and a representative of another embassy (the Dutch or Germans would be ideal) to ascertain his medical condition and his wishes; and
3) request a follow-on meeting through the QDF with el-Jahmi's family members (if needed). An issue that may complicate efforts to secure his release and medical travel is that el-Jahmi told us in our most recent meeting with him (in April), that he would not agree to any conditions (i.e., refraining from speaking about political issues or his detention) for his release and that his preference was to remain in Libya with his family. End comment.
STEVENS

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