Palestinian family: We didn't say organs taken

Family and relatives at center of Swedish story say they don't know if accusations are true or not.

jan helin Aftonbladet  248 88 (photo credit: )
jan helin Aftonbladet 248 88
(photo credit: )
The family and relatives of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem, the Palestinian at the center of the organ-theft story in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, said on Monday that they didn't know if the accusations were true or not. The family lives in the tiny village of Imatin in the northern West Bank. Ghanem, 19, was killed by IDF soldiers during the first intifada on May 13, 1992. He was a Fatah activist who was wanted by the IDF for his involvement in violence. His mother, Sadeeka, said he was shot by an IDF sniper as he walked out of his home. "The bullets hit him directly in the heart," she said. Ghanem's younger brother, Jalal, said he could not confirm the allegations made by the Swedish newspaper that his brother's organs had been stolen. "I don't know if this is true," he said. "We don't have any evidence to support this." Jalal said his brother was evacuated by the IDF in a helicopter and delivered to the family only a few days later. The mother denied that she had told any foreign journalist that her son's organs had been stolen. However, she said that now she does not rule out the possibility that Israel was harvesting organs of Palestinians. Jalal and two cousins who claimed that they saw the body said the young man's teeth were missing. They also said they saw stitches that ran from the chest down to the bottom of the stomach. "Obviously, they performed some kind of an autopsy on the body," the brother said. "When the army handed us the body, we were ordered to bury him quickly and in the middle of the night." Jalal said that he and other villagers recall that a Swedish photographer was in the village during the funeral and that he managed to take a number of pictures of the body before the funeral. "That was the only time we saw this photographer," he recounted. Ibrahim Ghanem, a relative of Bilal, said that the family never told the Swedish photographer that Israel had stolen organs from the dead man's body. "Maybe the journalist reached that conclusion on the basis of the stitches he saw on the body," he said. "But as far as the family is concerned, we don't know if organs were removed from the body because we never performed our own autopsy. All we know is that Bilal's teeth were missing." Jalal and other members of the family said that "rumors" about Israel killing Palestinians to steal their organs have been circulating for a long time. "I can't tell you if these rumors are true or not," the brother said. "But in light of the investigative report in the Swedish newspaper, we are demanding an international commission of inquiry into the case."