Israeli released in Libya returns

Held since March; greeted by FM who worked months for the release.

By RON FRIEDMAN
August 10, 2010 02:12
2 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with Yisrael Hadada.

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.

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.

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At a 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 questions.”

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 experience.”

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.

“It is 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.

The 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.”


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