March 12, 2008 / 8:37 PM / 11 years ago

Libya dissident's family says his health improving

TRIPOLI, March 12 (Reuters) - A Libyan dissident who fell ill during nearly four years in detention is recovering in a Tripoli medical centre where he can see his family continuously, his son said on Wednesday.

Fathi al-Jahmi, 66, a former provincial governor, was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease in 2005, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. The group said in January he had lost weight, was too weak to speak and required urgent care.

A charity run by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Gaddafi International Foundation, said on Tuesday that Jahmi had been released but was still receiving treatment at a medical centre in the capital Tripoli.

Later Jahmi’s younger brother Mohamed, a U.S. resident, said Jahmi remained in detention despite being allowed to receive relatives at the centre. He said Jahmi was forbidden to leave his room or take exercise.

On Wednesday however, a son of Jahmi who lives in Libya distanced himself from his uncle’s comments, saying: “We as the family of Fathi al-Jahmi are very happy with the improvement in his health, particularly now that he can see us continuously.”

“I am now responsible for responding to his needs — food, drink and everything,” added the son, who is also called Mohamed.

He said his father would be allowed to exercise soon as part of his treatment.

“It is thanks to the efforts of the Gaddafi Foundation that my father reached this stage,” he added without elaborating.

Jahmi was first arrested in 2002 after he criticised Libyan leader Gaddafi and called for elections, a free press and the release of political prisoners. A court sentenced him to five years in prison.

On March 1, 2004, U.S. Senator Joseph Biden met Gaddafi and called for Jahmi’s release. Nine days later, an appeals court gave Jahmi a suspended sentence of one year and ordered his release on March 12.

Jahmi was re-arrested later that month after he gave more interviews repeating his criticisms and was charged with trying to overthrow the government, insulting Gaddafi and contacting foreign authorities.

Libya, once shunned by the West, moved to end decades of international isolation in 2003 by accepting civil responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing over Scotland which killed 270 people. (Reporting by Salah Sarrar; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; editing by Sami Aboudi)

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