Lieberman: Orchestrated deal
Photo: AFP
Photo: Shaul Golan
Martin Schlaff. Key mediator
Photo: Shaul Golan

Libya releases Israeli man held since March

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman alerted to Vienna to await arrival of Rafael Hadad, photographer who traveled to Libya six months ago to take pictures of Jewish heritage sites and was detained by local security forces

An Israeli man missing in Libya since March was released Sunday in a complex diplomatic deal orchestrated by the Foreign Ministry and an Austrian mediator.


Rafael Hadad, who has dual Israeli and Tunisian citizenship, traveled to Libya almost six months ago in order to photograph Jewish heritage sites in the country on behalf of a society representing Libyan Jews. He was arrested by local security forces.


Hadad (L) with Lieberman in Vienna (Photo courtesy of Foreign Ministry)


Israeli officials told the Associated Press that, as part of the deal, Israel allowed 20 prefabricated houses carried on a Libyan ship heading for Gaza in July to be delivered after the ship was diverted to Egypt.


Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is currently awaiting Hadad's arrival in Vienna, Austria. He told reporters that "the redemption of prisoners is the greatest of mitzvahs".


The Foreign Ministry said that Martin Schlaff, an Austrian mediator, was involved in Hadad's release from Libyan detention.


Other states involved in the diplomatic battle for his release were Italy, which has close ties with Libya, France, and the US. The Tunisian president's office and the Libyan foreign ministry were also involved.


Lieberman, who departed on a vacation in Moldova three days ago, was alerted by Schlaff to Vienna's airport to await Hadad's arrival.


Austrian authorities agreed to allow Hadad to land in the country despite the fact that his personal documents were removed by Libyan security forces. He is scheduled to fly to Israel Monday.


The Israeli Foreign Ministry said when the initial negotiations for Hadad's release failed, Lieberman turned to Schlaff and asked the 57-year-old billionaire to take advantage of his warm relations with Libyan authorities and officials in Europe to advance the deal.


Libya, through Schlaff, demanded that Israel allow a Libyan ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza to dock in the Hamas-ruled territory.


In a compromise, the Amalthea docked instead in the nearby Egyptian port of El Arish, and Israel agreed that some 20 prefabricated structures in its cargo be admitted to Gaza.


Lieberman said overnight Monday, "Freeing captives is a big mitzvah, and I am glad I could contribute to the release of an innocent civilian who got in trouble."


AP, Reuters contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 08.08.10, 23:48
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