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Libya: drop charges against journalist Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi

    Friday, May 3, 2013 - 11:37

    In November 2012 Libyan journalist Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi, editor-in-chief of al-Umma newspaper,   published the names of 84 allegedly corrupt judges in his newspaper. Just a list of names. The newspaper had obtained the list from a confidential source.

    One month later, Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi was arrested, charged and detained under Article 195 of the Penal Code for the “insulting of constitutional or popular authorities”. Article 195 was frequently used to repress freedom of expression during the Gaddafi era. Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi is now facing 15 years in prison. Amnesty International believes that he is being tried solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi’s is being denied his right to a fair trial. Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi was initially denied access to his family and lawyer, and not brought o any of his assigned court session until March 11. On April 1, the Tripoli Criminal Court reportedly decided to bar Ramadan Salem, the lawyer of Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi’s choosing, from representing his client, and appointed a state lawyer instead. The court-appointed lawyer was given access to the case file, but was prevented from proceeding following the family’s objections. Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi filed a motion requesting the removal of the presiding judge in his case, which was accepted on April 15.

    In February 2013, Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi went on a hunger strike to protest his continued detention. Despite the deteriorating health, he only agreed to end his hunger strike when he was released on bail on April 21. However, Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi now faces a travel ban in addition to the charges against him. His trial is set to resume on June 23, 2103. If he is returned to prison Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi will once again become a prisoner of conscience.

    Amnesty is calling for the repeal of Article 195, which unduly restricts freedom of expression, and for all charges against Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi  to be dropped.

    Take Action:

    Please write letters calling on the Libyan authorities to:

    • Drop all charges against Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi.
    • Ensure that Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi’s has the right to choose his own lawyer as part of his right to a fair trial.
    • Lift the travel ban on Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi.

    Write to:

    President of the General National Congress
    Mohamed Magarief
    General National Congress
    Bab Ben Ghashir, Tripoli
    Fax: +218 213 622 895

    You can also take action online add your name to the international petition

    Further information:

    Article 195 of the Penal Code relates to “the insulting of constitutional or popular authorities”, an al-Gaddafi era provision, which criminalizes activities that amount to the exercise of freedom of expression. Amnesty International is gravely concerned that the Libyan authorities are relying on the same provisions, which led to the arrest of thousands of political detainees during the al-Gaddafi era, and the stifling of any opposition.

    There has also been a failure by the Libyan authorities to protect journalists. Despite the significant increase in the number of media outlets since the 2011 armed conflict that ended the rule of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, journalists who have voiced criticism, especially of militia groups, have been intimidated, harassed, threatened and detained by these groups.