April 21, 2009 / 8:04 PM / 10 years ago

Clinton raises case of jailed dissident with Libya

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had raised the case of ailing Libyan political dissident Fathi al-Jahmi when she met Libya’s national security adviser on Tuesday.

The United States has repeatedly urged Libya to release Jahmi, a former provincial governor who has been held since 2002 on a series of charges, including trying to overthrow the government and insulting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“We did raise human rights issues and specifically the case you referenced with the security adviser today,” Clinton told reporters, referring to her talks with Mutassim Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader.

Jahmi, whose family says he is in deteriorating health, was first arrested in 2002 after he criticized Gaddafi and called for open elections, a free press and the release of political prisoners. He was released in March 2004 and re-arrested the same month after repeating his criticism of the Libyan leader.

U.S.-Libyan relations have dramatically improved since Tripoli’s December 2003 decision to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs. The United States has ended its major economic sanctions on Libya and has dropped it from a State Department blacklist for “state sponsors of terrorism.”

However, some Libyan officials believe their country has not been sufficiently rewarded by the United States, which continues to have concerns about Libya’s human rights record.

In its annual survey of human rights, the State Department called Libya’s record “poor,” described it as an “authoritarian regime” and cited reports of disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and official impunity.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that Clinton and the national security adviser had a “productive” meeting in which they discussed security cooperation and expanding the relationship between their countries.

“We are trying to move forward with our relationship,” Wood said. “The secretary looks forward to working with the government of Libya on improving our bilateral relationship and dealing with some of these thorny issues where we disagree.”

Editing by Will Dunham

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