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The New York Sun
Wednesday, 31 August, 2005

Fathi el-Jahmi

Libyan Opposition Leader's Family Pleads With Bush for His Release

Libyan Opposition Leader's Family Pleads With Bush for His Release

By ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
August 31, 2005

WASHINGTON - The family of a Libyan dissident, Fathi El Jahmi is pressing the Bush administration to prioritize lobbying for his release.

Next week will see the three-month mark since the Libyan opposition leader's family was able to visit him in prison. In an interview with The New York Sun, Mr. El Jahmi's brother, Mohammed, said, "We are hearing senior regime officials talk about making an example of political prisoners. Fathi is old, and if they continue to hold him like this incommunicado, they are literally killing him."

Mr. El Jahmi has emerged as a symbol of Libya's opposition after he was most recently arrested on March 26, 2004, for giving interviews to Arabic satellite television channels calling for open elections in Muammar Gadhafi's one-party state. Earlier this year, Physicians for Human Rights was granted permission to visit Mr. El Jahmi and reported that he needed professional medical care to treat his diabetes and high blood pressure.

Mohammed El Jahmi is worried because no one has been allowed to see his brother since June 5. "If the Bush administration is serious about democracy, here is a democratic champion and they are letting Gadhafi get away literally with murder," he said yesterday.

Since President Bush announced in 2003 that Colonel Gadhafi had abandoned his nuclear weapons program, the State Department has taken a series of steps to normalize ties with the Libyan leader, allowing American oil services firms to reopen long shuttered business there. At the same time, State Department officials say they press regime officials for Mr. El Jahmi's release along with other political prisoners, but these formal requests have not produced results.

Mohammed El Jahmi was particularly concerned for his brother's safety in light of last June's murder of journalist Daif Al-Ghazal, who he said was killed on the orders of the Libyan government for writing anti-regime stories. Mr. El Jahmi also pointed to a recent meeting of Colonel Gadhafi's top advisers where a policy was approved to make an example of political prisoners.

The concern over Mr. El Jahmi is mounting as Tripoli tries to soften its image abroad. In an August 22 interview translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Colonel Gadhafi's son, Seif Al-Islam Gadhafi, said that his country's war with Israel was for all intents and purposes over.

"We participated in the war when Egypt fought, and when the Palestinian factions fought," he told the Lebanese Broadcasting Company. "But if the Palestinian factions are negotiating today, and sitting at the same table as the Israelis, and Egypt, Jordan, and all the Arab countries are having direct ties and negotiations with Israel, and they have embassies - the story is over. When Egypt, Syria, and the PLO were in a state of war, we supported them against Israel, but they have changed their policy."

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