Lieberman Hadada 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After five months in a Libyan prison, Israeli photographer Rafael Hadad returned
on Monday to Israel, flying in on an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna
accompanied by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and met at Ben-Gurion Airport
by his mother and brothers.
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Hadad, 34, holds Israeli and Tunisian
passports. He was reportedly in Libya shooting pictures of Jewish heritage sites
for a Jewish organization in Israel when he was arrested in March.
press conference held in the old arrivals hall of Terminal 1, Hadad thanked
those who had assisted in gaining his release and, despite clearly being
exhausted, used humor to express relief at being home.
“I want to thank
everybody who helped,” he said. “I am very happy you came. It’s nice to see so
many people at the airport. I will be happy not to answer any
Lieberman expressed astonishment at Hadad’s low-key demeanor
after his ordeal.
“I met him at the airport after five months [in prison]
and he was calm and showed great composure,” Lieberman said. “He deserves
congratulations for such behavior after a difficult
Lieberman took the opportunity to thank all parties that had
helped obtain Hadad’s release.
“I wish to thank all those who worked and
toiled to get him free. I thank my friend Martin Schlaff. I thank the Austrian
government, which was very cooperative.
I thank the various government
ministries that worked together on the task – the Foreign Ministry, the Prime
Minister’s Office, the Justice Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Attorney-
General’s Office. I am glad that everyone involved showed the required degree of
responsibility and that although dozens of people were in on the secret, there
were no leaks.”
Lieberman also thanked the Libyan government, stating
that despite the complexities, it had acted responsibly.
impossible to divulge details, but their demands were reasonable and
responsible,” he said of the Libyans. “We will honor their demands, which all
relate to issues regarding the Palestinians.”
Like Hadad, Lieberman
refused to answer journalists’ questions.
According to sources in the
Foreign Ministry, Lieberman took on the challenge of freeing Hadad
two-and-a-half months ago. Working through several channels, including indirect
talks with the Libyan Foreign Ministry and his close ties with Austrian
billionaire Schlaff, as well as through other contacts in Europe and North
America, Lieberman eventually managed to gain Hadad’s freedom.
sources said the greatest danger had been the possibility that Hadad would be
charged with spying for Israel.
UAL-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi said the deal
between Israel and Libya hinged on permission for the Ghaddafi International
Charity and Development Foundation to donate $50 million to the UNRWA to finance
the rebuilding of 1,250 homes in the Gaza Strip. Tibi, who was in Jordan
attending a ceremony celebrating the pledge, said it was a step in the right
direction and that the Gaza Strip “deserved liberty and not a siege.”