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Secretary Rice Should Use Visit to Libya to Press for Release of Fathi Al-Jahmi and Urge Progress on Human Rights

For Immediate Release

(Cambridge, MA)—Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to press for the unconditional release of prominent Libyan prisoner of conscience Fathi al-Jahmi, when she meets with the Government of Libya this week in Tripoli. Al-Jahmi, whose health had seriously deteriorated in 2007, received a medical evaluation by a PHR representative in March 2008 who visited and examined him in the Tripoli state hospital where he is apparently forcibly confined. Al-Jahmi has been in detention almost continuously since 2002. PHR's evaluation concluded that al-Jahmi suffers from diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, serious conditions which require access to medical treatment that the patient can trust, either inside Libya or in another country.

"Secretary Rice must tell the Libyan Government in no uncertain terms that Mr. al-Jahmi should be released from his hospital confinement and free to get the medical treatment he requires," stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "Any further normalization of relations between Libya and the US must be put on hold until Mr. al-Jahmi's indefinite detention is ended."

PHR also calls on Congress, including Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware), who has been a strong advocate for al-Jahmi's release, to pressure the Bush Administration to ensure that al-Jahmi's case is resolved. As the US seeks to upgrade its diplomatic and economic relations with Libya, it is essential that the US continue to demand that Libya comply with fundamental international human rights standards, including freedom of expression and freedom of movement. PHR said. This case has also involved the misuse of medicine and medical facilities to forcibly confine a political dissident.

"Congress should hold Secretary Rice and the Bush Administration responsible for guaranteeing that Mr. al-Jahmi's plight is not ignored," stated Donaghue. "Senator Biden and others who have advocated on Mr. al-Jahmi's behalf in the past must make their voices heard this week as the US-Libyan dialogue continues in Tripoli."

When a PHR physician visited al-Jahmi in March 2008, the government announced that he was released from the state custody and would be free to leave the hospital. Now, half a year later, he remains forcibly confined under armed guard with limited access to his family and to the medical procedures he requires.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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