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Jailed Libya journalist in hospital after hunger strike

Lawyer says Libyan hunger-striking prisoner, accused of 'defaming and insulting' judicial system, suffering serious health problems

AFP , Monday 15 Apr 2013
Views: 194
Views: 194

A Libyan journalist held in prison for four months charged with insulting the judiciary has been hospitalised after going on hunger strike, his lawyer said on Monday.

Amara Abdullah al-Khitabi, 67, editor of the private newspaper Al-Umma, "has been on hunger strike for three weeks," his lawyer Ramadhan Salem told AFP, and said his client was suffering from serious health problems.

Salem said that Khitabi has been accused of "defaming and insulting" the judicial system for publishing a list of 87 judges and prosecutors suspected of corruption.

Under Libya's legal system, he could be jailed for between three and 15 years if convicted.

The list was widely available on social media websites before Al-Umma published it, Salem added, sharply criticising irregularities in the legal proceedings and calling for Khitabi to be released.

A court on Monday decided to adjourn a new hearing in Khitabi's trial after a judge withdrew from the case, but Salem told AFP his client was unable to attend the hearing as he was in hospital because of the hunger strike.

The lawyer also attacked his client's detention in a high-security prison housing former officials from the Kadhafi regime, saying that he had been unable to visit Khitabi in the jail.

Journalists and human rights groups including Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also called on Libyan authorities to free Khitabi.

RSF has said it is "is very concerned about the growing dangers to which Libyan journalists are exposed.

"The fight against corruption goes hand in hand with transparency in all democratic societies and, in this respect, the role of journalists is fundamental."

It has demanded Khitabi's "immediate release."

Dozens of new television stations and newspapers sprang up across Libya following the 2011 fall of Moamer Kadhafi, who gagged the media during his four decades in power.

But journalists in the country have become the target of attacks and kidnappings in recent months by armed militias.

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