The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200

Amnesty International Distressed by Death of Libyan Government Critic Fathi el-Jahmi


Amnesty International is greatly distressed by the news of the death of Libyan government critic Fathi el-Jahmi earlier today in an Amman, Jordan, hospital following his transfer from detention at the Tripoli Medical Center in Libya.

An advocate of political reform, he was detained in Libya in March 2004 and held without charge or trial, most recently at the Tripoli Medical Center. Approximately two weeks ago, he was flown to Jordan for medical treatment.

"Fathi el-Jahmi was a towering democracy activist and fearless government critic who never allowed himself to be silent. He is an inspiration to many and his message of freedom of speech and governance lives on," said Zahir Janmohamed, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty International is still seeking clarification from the Libyan authorities as to the circumstances in which el-Jahmi, who was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, became seriously ill and was transferred to Jordan.

However at this time, our most immediate thoughts are with his family to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.

As an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, el-Jahmi's case was championed by the human rights organization. For approximately three years, Amnesty International held vigils in Boston and New York City and more than 17,000 supporters took action pushing for el-Jahmi's release. Activists also urged senior U.S. government officials including then-Senator Joseph Biden and other members of Congress to raise el-Jahmi's case with senior Libyan officials.

Amnesty International considered Fathi el-Jahmi to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression through his TV interviews and contacts with U.S. diplomats.

Libyan authorities arrested el-Jahmi in 2002 after he called for free speech and political reforms during a conference in Tripoli. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, but was released in March 2004 following international pressure. Authorities detained el-Jahmi weeks later, after he repeated his call for democracy during a television interview.

During 2004, el-Jahmi was held in solitary confinement, denied visits by his family and allowed only occasional access to a doctor, though he suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart condition.

In February 2005, a delegation from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations was allowed to visit el-Jahmi and conduct a medical assessment. These organizations assessed that he had until then been receiving only "sporadic and inadequate medical treatment," despite "suffering from several chronic and mutually adverse conditions (diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease) that are independently life threatening and difficult to control." In January 2008, a number of organizations released statements expressing their concern about el-Jahmi's deteriorating health.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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