Former Palestinian prisoner Omar Nayef Zayed is being pursued for extradition from Bulgaria by the Israeli state.
Despite a raid on his home and the one-day arrest of his son, Omar has not yet been arrested by the Bulgarian police. Local and international pressure and action is necessary to call on Bulgaria to refuse to extradite Omar to Israel.
Zayed, 52, was born in Jenin, in Palestine’s West Bank. He was arrested by occupation forces in May 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After a 40 day hunger strike in 1990, he was transferred to a hospital in Bethlehem where he escaped in May, disappeared and left Palestine.
In 1994, he traveled to Bulgaria. Omar married a Bulgarian citizen and has Bulgarian children; he runs a Palestinian grocery and is well-known in the Palestinian community of Sofia.
On Tuesday, 15 December, the Israeli embassy sent a letter to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice demanding the extradition of Omar Nayef Zayed, labelling him a “fugitive from justice.”
Omar’s home was raided on Thursday, 17 December; he was not home and his son was arrested for one day. The Bulgarian prosecutor has been quoted in Arabic media as calling for his imprisonment and quick extradition to Tel Aviv.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network emphasises that this is a political attack on former Palestinian prisoners. It should not be seen as an individual case only, but an attempt by the Israeli state to persecute former Palestinian prisoners and invade Palestinian communities throughout Europe. Like all Palestinian prisoners, Omar’s case is a political case and not a “criminal case.”
Extraditions for political offences are not legitimate and should be denied.
In addition, Omar would have been freed under 1993 under the Oslo accords, which, along with subsequent agreements between the PLO leadership and the Israeli state, should have rendered his imprisonment null and void.
“The persecution of Omar Nayef Zayed is a further campaign to criminalise Palestinians and Palestinian communities outside of Palestine. It is a threat to Palestinians throughout Europe and it is urgent that Bulgaria refuse the demand to extradite Omar,” said Charlotte Kates, coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. “We need to organise, get on the streets and make our voices heard for justice for Omar.”
Omar Nayef Zayed is a beloved community leader, a former Palestinian prisoner who deserves the support of people around the world. We urge immediate action to defend Omar and demand that any attempts by Bulgaria to arrest, pursue, criminalise or extradite Omar be dropped.
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