|08TRIPOLI280||2008-04-03 18:09:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Tripoli|
1.(C) Summary: The medical condition of detained human rights activist Fathi el-Jahmi appears to have taken a turn for the worse, necessitating - in the judgment of his treating physician - an additional two to three weeks in hospital for observation and treatment. Should his condition improve, el-Jahmi refuses to consider acceding to a tacit agreement to refrain from political statements or comments about his experience in detention in exchange for his discharge from hospital. He walked back from his earlier request for political asylum, saying his preference is to remain in Libya with his family - provided that his physical security is assured - with the possibility of traveling abroad for medical treatment. He and his wife agreed that the next steps in his case should be: 1) ensuring that his medical condition stabilizes enough that he can be released; 2) securing the requisite signature on his discharge papers and ensuring his discharge from the TMC; 3) ensuring his physical safety after his return home; 4) ensuring access to needed outpatient care for his cardiac and prostate conditions, and; 5) later, securing his passport and dispensation from the GOL to travel abroad for medical care. An unexpected attempt by a camera crew to film Emboff visiting el-Jahmi underscores the GOL's sensitivity in the wake of public remarks on el-Jahmi's case by USG officials. The deterioration in el-Jahmi's medical condition, while troubling, potentially affords a useful window of opportunity in which to allow what has become a neuralgic issue to settle, potentially facilitating more productive engagement. End summary.
DETERIORATION IN MEDICAL CONDITION
2.(C) P/E Chief visited Fathi el-Jahmi at the Tripoli Medical Center on April 3. El-Jahmi's wife, treating physician (Dr. Abdulrahman Mehdy) and a man described as his nurse, Abdullah Bashir, were also present. An echocardiogram performed in P/E Chief's presence showed the el-Jahmi's blood ejection fraction had decreased from 52.5 percent on/about March 14 to 42 percent on April 3. Mehdy indicated that 52.5 percent had been at "the low end of normal"; 42 percent was below normal. El-Jahmi's blood pressure remained at 100/60 to 120/70. El-Jahmi appeared tired, disoriented and feeble, by contrast with his condition when P/E Chief visited him on March 30, when Mehdy indicated that el-Jahmi was medically fit to be discharged. (Note: As reported ref A, Mehdy indicated he was ready to sign el-Jahmi's discharge papers, but indicated he was under considerable pressure not to do so from the QDF and security officials. End note.)
EL-JAHMI NOT/NOT MEDICALLY FIT FOR DISCHARGE
3.(C) Mehdy said he believed a beta-blocker medication el-Jahmi began taking immediately after the visit of Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (HRW/PHR) had precipitated the deterioration in el-Jahmi's cardiac condition. Mehdy indicated that el-Jahmi was not/not medically fit for release at the present time, and should remain in hospital for an additional two to three weeks for observation and to see whether his condition improves. Mehdy has been in regular telephone contact with PHR's Dr. Scott Allen, who visited and examined el-Jahmi on/about March 14, and HRW's Fred Abrahams. He spoke with both on April 2 and expected Allen to call him later today to discuss el-Jahmy's case.
EL-JAHMI REJECTS TACIT AGREEMENT TO REMAIN SILENT AS CONDITION OF RELEASE
4.(C) Per ref B, P/E Chief asked el-Jahmi whether he understood that the GOL and QDF were insisting that he accede to a tacit agreement to refrain from political statements and discussing his experiences in detention to secure his release. (Note: The QDF's Human Rights Director, Abdelsalem Saleh, had earlier pressured el-Jahmi's wife and son, Muhammad, to sign a statement pledging that el-Jahmi would not speak with anyone in any channel about political issues or his experience in detention. El-Jahmi refused to agree to any "formal conditions" for his discharge, and did not consent to his wife and son signing the document. End note.) Asserting his right to free speech, he said that if released, he would not agree to avoid the press - but would not seek it out, either.
WALKS BACK ASYLUM REQUEST, WANTS TO REMAIN IN LIBYA
5.(C) Per ref B, P/E Chief asked el-Jahmi whether he understood TRIPOLI 00000280 002 OF 002 what it meant to request asylum. If granted, he would forever leave his home and country, likely with only a few of his family members. El-Jahmi stressed that his preference "from the beginning of his quarrels with Qadhafi" was to remain in Libya, working to advance the cause of the Libyan people. Qadhafi had not respected that wish. Pressed on whether he wished to pursue formal asylum, el-Jahmi said he knows that he hasn't long to live, that he wants to remain in Libya with his family, and that he wants to be able to travel abroad for medical treatment. He stressed that he would need "protection" if he remained in Libya. P/E Chief made it clear that the Embassy is not/not in position to provide such security. El-Jahmi repeated several times that he "wants to live freely under the law".
6.(C) It was agreed with el-Jahmi and his wife that the next steps should be: - ensuring that his medical condition stabilizes enough that he can be released; - securing the requisite signature on his discharge papers and ensuring his discharge from the TMC; - ensuring his physical safety after his return home; - ensuring access to needed outpatient care for his cardiac and prostate conditions, and; - later, securing his passport and dispensation from the GOL to travel abroad - at some point in the future - for medical care.
7.(C) Shortly after P/E Chief's arrival, a camera crew burst into el-Jahmi's hospital room, shoved aside the doctor and began asking el-Jahmi questions about his medical condition, quality of care at the TMC, and whether he may receive "local and international" visitors. P/E Chief quietly ducked out of the room to avoid appearing on camera. A member of the team in the corridor said they were from a "European news channel", but refused to identify himself or show any credentials. The crew emerged from the room and asked P/E Chief to give remarks. He refused and re-entered el-Jahmi's room. The crew burst in a short while later, clearly distressing el-Jahmi, and again pressed P/E Chief for comment while filming. (Note: Mehdy later told P/E Chief the crew had pressed him and el-Jahmi to identify P/E Chief; he claimed neither did so. End note.)
8.(C) Comment: The reported deterioration in el-Jahmi's medical condition, while troubling, potentially affords a useful window of opportunity in which to allow what has become a neuralgic issue to settle, potentially facilitating more productive engagement. Recent public remarks by USG officials and the HRW/PHR statement of March 29 clearly hit a nerve, likely contributing to the decision to have the MFA convoke us on April 1 to register protest and the media stunt during today's hospital visit. The QDF and GOL believe we and others have not given them credit for steps already taken, and that we are seeking to embarrass the regime. We should seek to avoid that misperception by encouraging a return to quiet, measured engagement to secure progress on steps outlined in para
6. The biggest potential obstacle may be el-Jahmi's refusal to agree to honor a tacit agreement to remain quiet in exchange for his discharge. The QDF, in particular Chairman Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, are anxious that this case should be resolved quickly and positively, particularly in light of the messy denouement of the Bulgarian medics case last summer. End comment.