For Immediate Release
Amnesty International Says Libyan Writer is Jailed for Calling for Protests for Greater Freedoms in Libya
Human Rights Organization Raises Doubts About Allegation that Jamal al-Jajii was Arrested by Security Agents for Hitting Man with Car
WASHINGTON - A Libyan writer and political
commentator arrested last week and accused of hitting a man with his car
appears to have been targeted, arrested and jailed instead because he called
for peaceful protests in the country, Amnesty International said today.
"The Libyan authorities must clarify
the legal status of Jamal al-Hajji," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s
director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"They must release him immediately and
without conditions if the real reason for his continuing detention is his
peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, in which case
he is a prisoner of conscience."
Al-Hajji, a former prisoner of conscience
who has dual Libyan and Danish nationality, was detained on February 1
in Tripoli by plain clothes security officers. They accused him of hitting
a man with his car, which he denies.
Al-Hajji’s arrest came shortly after he
made a call on the internet for demonstrations to be held in support of
greater freedoms in Libya, in the manner of recent mass protests in Tunisia,
Egypt and other countries across the Middle East and North Africa.
"Two particular aspects of the case
lead us to believe that the alleged car incident was not the real reason
for Jamal al-Hajji’s arrest, but merely a pretext to conceal what was
really a politically motivated arrest," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty
International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"First, eyewitnesses have reported that
the man who is said to have complained of being struck by Al-Hajji’s car
showed no visible signs of injury.
“Secondly, the officers who conducted the
arrest were in plain clothes, indicating that they were not the ordinary
police who generally would be expected to handle car accidents, but members
of the Internal Security Agency (ISA). It is the ISA that usually carries
out arrests of political suspects and they wear plain clothes."
Al-Hajji was arrested in a parking lot in
Tripoli by a group of about 10 security officials in plain clothes who
told him a man claimed to have been hit by Jamal al-Hajji’s car, which
he had just parked.
On February 3, al-Hajji appeared before the
General Prosecutor in Tripoli and was charged with injuring a person with
his car. His detention was extended for six days and he was transferred
to Jdaida Prison.
An accountant by profession, Al-Hajji has
written a series of articles about political developments and human rights
in Libya, mostly published on news websites based outside the country.
He is a former prisoner of conscience. He
was recently detained for over four months, accused of “contempt of judicial
authorities,” after he complained to the Libyan authorities that he had
been ill-treated while imprisoned for two years up to March 2009.
Since his release on April 14, 2010, he has
continued to call for greater freedoms in Libya.
The Libyan government maintains tight curbs
on freedom of expression and the rights to freedom of association and peaceful
assembly. Law No. 71 of 1972 on the Criminalization of Parties bans any
form of group activity that is based on a political ideology deemed contrary
to the principles of the al-Fateh Revolution of September 1, 1969, which
brought Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi to power more than 40 years
Various provisions of the Libyan Penal Code
severely limit freedom of expression and have been used against those who
express dissent or are deemed to be critics or opponents of the current
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and
volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide.
The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes
the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth
and dignity are denied.