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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Political Prisoner: Fathi Eljahmi


Allowing Libyan tyrant Moammar Gadhafi to make a mockery of U.S. policy is not a good idea, especially not when the Bush administration has been talking Gadhafi up for the past 18 months as one of our newest allies in the war on terror and an example to other enemy regimes of how to win America's respect and goodwill. Gadhafi has lots to snicker about right now, at our expense--as the U.S. continues to give him a free pass over manhandling Libya's most prominent democratic dissident, Fathi Eljahmi. The 64-year-old Mr. Eljahmi has a habit of speaking up for freedom in Libya every time he gets a chance. For this, he has spent most of the past four years in a series of prisons or--in the more polite lingo applied to his current caged condition--the state security detention facilities of Gadhafi's Great Socialist People's Libyan Jamahiriya. ... The answer is that pressure from the U.S. and other democratic nations does matter to Libya's regime. But Gadhafi since last year has been testing the limits, to see just how much he can get away with. It seems, unfortunately, that he can get away with a lot. The release of Mr. Eljahmi's wife and son, for example, was accompanied by a warning delivered via the ransacking of their Tripoli home, followed by what Libyan sources report was attempted arson that finally drove family members to abandon the place. It is heartening that a doctor has been allowed to see Mr. Eljahmi in recent months, and it is encouraging that Human Rights Watch has met with him as well. But the real issue for Libya--and the implied message to other nations saddled with despotic regimes--involves less the precise conditions of detention than the vital issue of whether or not democratic dissidents are silenced. And somehow, between Gadhafi's politicking and the apparently endless excitement in the democratic world over such matters as Koran-handling at Guantanomo, Mr. Eljahmi's case has pretty much sunk below the radar. In the 15 months since his arrest, his voice has not been heard outside the confines of Libyan security detention quarters. Mr. Eljahmi did manage to send a message that bears repeating and amplifying loudly enough not only to be heard in Washington, but to echo back into Libya itself. Visited in custody by Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch last month (Mr. Abrahams shot the photos accompanying this column), Mr. Eljahmi asked him to pass along greetings to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the rest of the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress, with the message: "Tell them we are ready for democracy."
Mr Eljahmi, like so many others possesses a courage that is difficult to comprehend. I aplaud Libya for the steps it has taken, but it needs to do much more. We should support Eljahmi's cause and demand his release from prison.


Blogger Greg said...

As usual you provide information of your blog that I'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. I agree that the U.S. has been giving Kadafi and a number of other tyrants way too much encouragement rather than telling them that their actions are unacceptible. The U.S.,as the only country able to preserve a level of sanity in this crazy world should definitely step up its efforts with regards to Kadafi.
Thanks for the post. Keep us informed!

6/16/2005 07:20:00 AM  

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