- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Tuesday with Mutassim Gadhafi, son of and national security adviser to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and said she asked him about a long-held, gravely ill Libyan dissident.

Officially, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the meeting focused on security cooperation between the United States and the North African country that has been on speaking terms with the United States only recently after four decades as a bitter antagonist,

Wood would not say whether Clinton and Gadhafi discussed Libya’s suspect human rights record.

Hours later, after Clinton emerged from a meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the secretary was asked whether she had brought up human rights in the earlier meeting with Gadhafi. Specifically, the questioner asked whether she inquired about the status of Fathi el-Jahmi, a provincial official who has spent most of the past seven years in prison because he has pressed for democracy.

“We did raise human rights issues,” Clinton said, “and specifically the case you referenced, with the security adviser today.”

She did not characterize Gadhafi’s reaction.

Amnesty International and other rights organizations have written that el-Jahmi suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

The United States has appealed repeatedly for his release since his first arrest in 2002.

Just over one year ago, then-deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, “We urge the Libyan government to fulfill their promise to release without condition Fathi el-Jahmi, a prominent Libyan activist.

“His release would signal to the international community that Libya is seriously committed to improving its human rights record.”

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