The media had a big laugh at the President’s expense. One of the headlines was, “Bush praises man in woman’s day speech.” At an event celebrating women’s rights, Bush said that the Libyan government had released Fathi Jahmi. “She’s a local government official who was imprisoned in 2002 for advocating free speech and democracy,” Bush said. “It’s an encouraging step toward reform in Libya. You probably have heard, Libya is beginning to change her attitude about a lot of things. We hope that more such steps will follow in Libya, and around the world.”
Yes, it’s true. Bush made a mistake. Fathi Jahmi is a he, not a she. He is an engineer, married with seven children, who was arrested in October 2002 and sentenced by a Libyan “People’s Court” to five years’ imprisonment after he stated during a session of the People’s Conference that reform within Libya would never take place in the absence of a constitution, pluralism and democracy.
The issue is not whether Bush made a mistake but what this development has to say about Libya today. Having announced that he will abandon weapons of mass destruction, Libyan dictator and mass murderer Moammar Gadhafi bowed to U.S. pressure to release Jahmi. But many more remain in prison. And the case can be made that Gadhafi himself should be in prison?or executed?for his crimes, including the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103, killing 270 people. One-hundred-eighty-nine of them were Americans.
Jahmi’s brother Mohamed told us that he was released and then interviewed by telephone by the Al-Hurrah TV station. Mohamed Jahmi says that his brother has now “condemned the Gadhafi regime on Libyan TV and is openly speaking about the need for democratic reform in Libya.”
In the interview with Al-Hurrah TV, conducted with him in Libya, he didn’t back away from his criticism of the regime. Explaining the circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment, he said, “I was imprisoned for 18 months for speaking in the People’s Congress in Tripoli on October 19, 2002, where I called for democracy and abolishing the Green Book [of Moammar Gadhafi], for national reconciliation, for release of all political prisoners, for free elections, for a free press and for a free civil society.” Before that, he said the regime tried to bar his children from enrolling in an English-speaking school and “used many forms of oppression against me, among them an attempt to kill me and to impoverish me.
Continuing his criticism, he said, “Gadhafi is the absolute ruler. All is left for him to do is hand us [a] prayer carpet and ask us to bow before his picture and worship him. He is a dictator who doesn’t know any better. He abused the Libyan people by sending their best to [prison]?How could he implement reform, while those people remain in prison? He hijacked power from the people. At this moment I challenge him from inside Libya and I am willing to sacrifice my life. If he wants to kill me, I am ready to die for the Libyan people.” Those are brave statements. But the families of those killed by Gadhafi on Pan Am 103 say that it is Gadhafi who should die for his mass murder and terrorism.