Freed Libyan prisoner of conscience hails Amnesty International

A prominent Libyan prisoner of conscience freed from detention has thanked Amnesty International for working on his behalf while in detention.

Jamal al-Hajji, a long-term critic of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, was freed from the notorious Abu Salim prison on 24 August following seven months of incommunicado detention for demanding reform.

“Words cannot express my gratitude for Amnesty International’s support. I want to thank all Amnesty staff and members who highlighted my plight throughout the years,” he told Amnesty International delegates who met him at his Tripoli home.

Jamal al-Hajji was arrested by Libyan plainclothes security agents on 1 February on the pretext of causing a car accident. He had previously  published articles on foreign websites calling for anti-government protests.

The activist endured appalling conditions during three months in solitary confinement, without contact with the outside world, at the Nasr Intelligence Office in Tripoli.

“The toilet was inside the cell, which lacked ventilation. Guards wouldn’t even come inside. The blanket I was given was stained with other prisoners’ blood, insects were crawling all over and I was not given any supplies for cleaning. I couldn’t even stand-up straight in there,” he told Amnesty International.

Jamal was taken out of his cell once, for interrogation, during which he was blindfolded and blamed for inciting demonstrations and for NATO’s military campaign in Libya.

He was later transferred to Abu Salim prison and held in a small cell – designed for solitary confinement – with another prisoner. He spent three months unable to lie down properly and now suffers from back and chest pain as a result of the harsh conditions.

“It is incredible to see at what lengths some leaders go to remain on the throne. We must support all people who call for greater freedoms and human rights. When the rights of innocent people are being violated anywhere, we must all stand up everywhere in their defence,” Jamal told Amnesty International.  

Jamal al-Hajji was previously detained by Colonel al-Gaddafi’s government between February 2007 and March 2009 for calling for demonstrations on the anniversary of a brutal crackdown on an anti-government protest.

He was arrested again in December 2009 and held for over four months after he complained that he had been ill-treated during his first detention.