Libyan journalist allowed medical treatment abroad

A judge in Tripoli on August 21, 2013, lifted the travel ban placed on Amara al-Khatabi, editor of the daily Al-Ummah, and ordered the return of the journalist’s passport, al-Khatabi’s lawyer, Ramadan Farag Salem, told CPJ and human rights organizations. 

The court’s decision followed CPJ’s calls in April for the travel ban to be removed so that al-Khatabi could seek urgent medical treatment abroad. In April, the 67-year-old journalist was suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and lung problems, and was barely able to speak, Farag had told CPJ at the time. The lawyer said that his passport had been confiscated and that he needed immediate medical care that was not available in Libya.

Al-Khatabi was imprisoned on December 19, 2012 under the Qaddafi-era penal code on charges of insulting and defaming members of the judiciary. The charges related to a story published in Al-Ummah in November 2012 that accused 87 judges and others in the judiciary of accepting bribes and of being loyal to the late Muammar Qaddafi. Under Article 195 of the Libyan penal code, those convicted of slandering or insulting public officials could receive up to 15 years in jail.

Al-Khatabi attended his trial, which began on April 1, 2013, in a wheelchair, according to human rights and press freedom organizations. He was released on bail by Tripoli’s Court of Appeals on April 14, 2013, according to news reports.

The journalist traveled to Jordan on September 5, 2013, to receive medical treatment. His next court date is scheduled for September 29, 2013.

UPDATE: This case has been modified to reflect that a judge lifted the travel ban on al-Khatabi on August 21, 2013–and not on September 5, 2013, as previously stated.