Amnesty International today called on the Libyan authorities to immediately clarify the legal status of former prisoner of conscience Jamal al-Hajji, who is being detained seemingly in connection with his political and human rights activities in Libya.
Jamal al-Hajji was arrested earlier this week officially in relation to an alleged car accident, but Amnesty International is concerned that his detention relates chiefly to a call he made on the internet for peaceful demonstrations to take place in different parts of Libya on 2 March 2011 in support of greater freedoms in the country. If he has been detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, the organization would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.
On 1 February, Jamal al-Hajji was arrested by a group of around 10 plain-clothed members of the security forces in a car park in Tripoli. They said that they had received a complaint from a man claiming to have been hit by Jamal al-Hajji’s car, which he had just parked. Jamal al-Hajji denied that he had hit anyone in his car, but the security forces apprehended him, forced him into an unmarked car and took him away.
Two aspects of the incident raise suspicions that the alleged accident was not the real reason for the arrest. On the one hand, eyewitnesses reported that the man who made the complaint showed no visible signs of injury. On the other, the fact that those who made the arrest were in plain clothes suggests that they were not regular members of the regular police force, who would be expected to handle traffic incidents and are generally uniformed, but members of the Internal Security Agency, which usually carries out arrests of political suspects and operate in plain clothes.
On 3 February, Jamal al-Hajji appeared before the General Prosecutor in Tripoli and was charged with injuring somebody in a car accident. The General Prosecutor ordered the extension of his detention for six days and his transfer to Jdaida Prison.
Jamal al-Hajji is a writer and accountant who holds dual Libyan and Danish nationality. For a number of years, he has written articles on the current political and human rights situation in Libya, which are mainly published on news websites based outside the country.
Jamal al-Hajji was recently detained for over four months on a charge of “contempt of judicial authorities”, after complaining to the Libyan authorities that he had been ill-treated during a two-year period of imprisonment which ended in March 2009. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely for exercising his right to express his views peacefully. He was arrested on 8 December 2009 and released on 14 April 2010. Since then he has continued his advocacy of greater freedoms in Libya.
Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are tightly restricted in Libya in law and practice. Law No. 71 of 1972 on the Criminalization of Parties bans any form of group activity based on a political ideology opposed to the principles of the al-Fateh Revolution of 1 September 1969, which brought Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi to power. A number of provisions in the Libyan Penal Code severely limit the right to freedom of expression and have been used to repress those suspected of being opposed to or critical of the current political system.
In recent weeks, a number of other individuals have been arrested and detained, apparently in connection with their political views or activities.
On 2 February 2011, Ali Abdelounis al-Mansouri was arrested in Tobruk, apparently by members of the Internal Security Agency, and reportedly transferred to detention in Tripoli the same day. Since then his relatives have been unable to obtain information on his legal status or place of detention, despite making a number of inquiries with the authorities. He has recently made several calls on the internet for peaceful demonstrations in Libya in support of greater freedoms in the country.
On 25 January 2011, Safai Eddine Hilal Sherif was arrested at his home in Ras Lanouf, apparently by members of the Internal Security Agency, who also confiscated his personal computer. Since then his relatives have been unable to obtain information on his legal status or place of detention, despite making a number of inquiries with the authorities. He is known for his public calls that corruption in Libya must be tackled and that greater space must be granted to civil society in the country.
On 29 December 2010, Mahmoud Mohamed Shuha was arrested in Kufra, reportedly by armed security agents. A few hours later, he was apparently transferred to detention in Tripoli. His relatives have been unable to establish any contact with him. He is reported to be active in raising concerns about discriminatory practices against the Tabu tribe in the south-east of Libya.