Cablegate: Released Regime Critic Idriss Boufayed to Travel to Switzerland for Medical Treatment
DE RUEHTRO #0925/01 3371700
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 021700Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4199
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1326
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0686
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0830
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0776
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0952
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0639
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 0020
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0482
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4721
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000925
NSC FOR YERGER, DEPT FOR DRL/NESCA (JOHNSTONE, KWIRAM) AND
NEA/MAG (JOHNSON, NARDI)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/2/2018
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV KPAO LY
SUBJECT: RELEASED REGIME CRITIC IDRISS BOUFAYED TO TRAVEL TO SWITZERLAND FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT REF: A) TRIPOLI 472, B) TRIPOLI 819, C) NEA/MAG OI 12/01/2008
CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: Self-described regime critic Dr. Idriss Boufayed has decided to travel to Switzerland for specialized medical treatment for his lung cancer, a trip he had not undertaken sooner after his release in October because he was weak from chemotherapy. Boufayed has obtained his passport and a Swiss visa and agreed to accept financial assistance from the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF), which has agreed to underwrite his travel, lodging and treatment (although he has not yet received the funds). He is scheduled to depart Libya on/about December 6. Boufayed's brother, who intended to accompany him, has been denied permission to travel; Boufayed believes his family are being kept in Libya as insurance against his speaking out about his trial or detention. The QDF has also indicated that most of the remaining ten members of Boufayed's group, who were arrested in February 2007 on the eve of a planned peaceful demonstration in Tripoli's Martyr's Square, may be released from prison in the coming week. End summary.
BOUFAYED TO TRAVEL TO SWITZERLAND FOR TREATMENT
2. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx gave P/E Chief an update on the case of self-described regime critic Dr. Idriss Boufayed on December 2. (Note: Boufayed was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment earlier this year in connection with a planned peaceful demonstration in Tripoli's Martyr's Square (ref A); as reported ref B, he was released on humanitarian grounds - he suffers from advanced lung cancer - on October 8. End note.) xxxxxxxxxxxx visited Boufayed on November 28 at the latter's family home in Gharyan, some 120 kilometers from Tripoli. xxxxxxxxxxxx said Boufayed:
1) had decided to travel to Switzerland for specialized medical treatment for his lung cancer;
2) had obtained his passport (which was confiscated at the time of his arrest in February 2007) from the quasi-governmental Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF), which had helped facilitate his release from detention, and;
3) planned to depart on December 6 for Geneva. xxxxxxxxxxxx said the QDF had decided to underwrite Boufayed's travel, lodging and treatment, and that Boufayed had agreed to accept the assistance. (Note: In an earlier meeting, xxxxxxxxxxxx told us Boufayed had not yet decided whether to accept the QDF's financial assistance, as doing so could be construed as tacit acceptance of the regime's legitimacy. End note.) Addressing recent reports on opposition websites that the GOL had delayed permitting Boufayed to travel for treatment, xxxxxxxxxxxx called Juma'a Boufayed (Idriss' brother) and handed the phone to P/E Chief. (Note: Juma'a Boufayed was arrested with other members of the group and detained for 14 months before released; he was not convicted or sentenced. End note.) Juma'a dismissed the reports, explaining that Idriss Boufayed had elected not to travel sooner after his release because had been undergoing chemotherapy and was too weak to travel or undergo further invasive cancer therapy.
3. (C) Confirming reports in ref C, Swiss Consul Francois Schmidt told us Boufayed obtained a Swiss visa on December 2. Boufayed also has a Swiss residency permit (scheduled to expire on December 19), which he intends to renew during his upcoming visit. Schmidt said Boufayed was coughing and appeared drawn at his visa interview, a condition Boufayed attributed to the chemotherapy regimen. Boufayed told Schmidt the QDF had "promised" to pay for his travel, lodging and medical treatment, although he had not received funds to date and did not expect to before he departed on December 6. Schmidt said Boufayed suggested in his interview that the QDF hoped to induce Boufayed to refrain from speaking publicly about his trial or detention by offering to underwrite his medical travel. Schmidt noted that as a legal resident, Boufayed was entitled to seek medical care in Switzerland and did not have to demonstrate financial means in the way that a normal visa applicant would. Boufayed told Schmidt he had not decided which medical facility he would obtain treatment at, but said he planned to stay with friends in the Geneva area.
FAMILY TO REMAIN IN LIBYA AS INSURANCE
4. (C) Separately, xxxxxxxxxxxx told us in a telephone call that the GOL had decided not to permit Juma'a Boufayed to accompany his TRIPOLI 00000925 002 OF 002 ailing brother, which was the original plan. It is not clear who will accompany Idriss Boufayed. xxxxxxxxxxxx suggested that another member of the family would; however, Schmidt told us he was not aware that any other Boufayed family members had Swiss visas. He added that Idriss Boufayed had responded to the question as to who would travel with him by noting that his family members would remain in Libya "as insurance" (against his talking). Boufayed suggested that he did not intend to speak out during his travel MOST OF BOUFAYED GROUP REMAINING IN PRISON MAY BE RELEASED SOON
5. (C) Citing a conversation on December 1 with QDF Human Rights Director Saleh Abdusalam Saleh, xxxxxxxxxxxx said it was expected that all but one or two of the 10 members of the Boufayed group remaining in prison were expected to be released in the coming week. (Note: As reported ref A, Idriss Boufayed and 10 other members of a group of self-described regime critics were convicted on June 10 of planning to foment rebellion against "the people's authority system". Boufayed received a sentence of 25 years; sentences for the other 10 ranged from six to 15 years. End note.) xxxxxxxxxxxx said it had not yet been determined whether they would be pardoned of their crimes or simply released on humanitarian grounds. He speculated that members of the group kept in detention would likely be those who refused to sign statements agreeing to refrain from speaking publicly about their trials or detention, a common condition of release for political prisoners.
6. (C) Comment: The news that the QDF has helped Boufayed obtain a passport and stands ready to facilitate and perhaps underwrite his medical treatment abroad is a welcome development, as are reports that the members of the group remaining in prison may soon be released. Post does not recommend a proactive media note, but suggests that any press guidance in connection with Boufayed's travel to Switzerland:
1) welcome the news as a positive development;
2) suggest that it would be appropriate if members of the Boufayed group who remain in prison were released (if such has not already occurred), and;
3) encourage the GOL to consider parallel measures for detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi, who remains in detention at the Tripoli Medical Center. End comment.