A Libyan newspaper editor detained since 19 December for publishing a list of judges allegedly involved in corruption in the country must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today.
Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi, 67, is currently detained in Hudba Prison in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, charged with defamation in relation to a list of 84 judges his newspaper published saying they were involved in corruption.
He has been on hunger strike since 28 February in protest against his arrest and continued detention. There are risks that his health will deteriorate rapidly as he suffers from a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.
“We are extremely worried about Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi’s health. Detaining a journalist because he run a piece on corruption is reminiscent of al-Gaddafi-era practices. Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi should be released immediately and without any conditions,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Restrictions on freedom of expression and widespread corruption were some of the grievances that sparked the 2011 popular uprising and led to the fall of al-Gaddafi’s government. It is outrageous that the authorities in Libya continue to rely on the same old tactics to prevent journalists from speaking up about issues such as corruption.”
Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi was originally arrested on 19 December 2012, a month after the article was published.
Charges were brought against him in relation to his newspaper’s registration and for “offending the judicial institution”.
Until recently his family and lawyers have been denied permission to visit him in prison. His lawyer was not allowed to see his files until just before a court hearing on 11 March.
At the hearing, Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi’s health was so poor that he had to be helped into the room. His lawyer has claimed that he lost consciousness during the hearing and his requests to transfer him to hospital were denied.
The trial was postponed until 18 March at the request of Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi’s lawyer, after he was granted permission by the judge to access his client’s files and visit him in prison in the next few days.
According to Libyan media, the Minister of Justice, Salah Marghani, told a press conference on 4 March that Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi should be released on bail.