The assassination of Comrade Omar Nayef Zayed, former Palestinian prisoner and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in Bulgaria in late February shocked the conscience of the Palestinian people and their supporters, especially as the crime took place inside the Palestinian embassy in Sofia.
Al-Hadaf News has been communicating with Comrade Khaled Barakat, Palestinian leftist writer and international coordinator of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, who is now in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and was in direct daily contact with the martyr and his family, closely following the international solidarity campaign which was launched one week after Omar Nayef Zayed sought refuge in the Palestinian embassy. We reprint here a translation of Barakat’s interview with Al-Hadaf News.
In the interview, Barakat said that he is in possession of letters and documents confirming the martyr’s experience of pressure from the Palestinian embassy and the ambassador, Ahmad al-Madhbouh, as well as the procrastination and delays of the ambassador in many steps to help provide protection for Nayef, threats of turning him over to the Bulgarians for extradition to the occupation, warnings about him being lured from the embassy, and the involvement of Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki. Barakat noted that the Foreign Minister was also involved in thwarting efforts to find a serious solution; he also urged the need to clarify the role of the Palestinian intelligence agencies during Nayef’s 70 days in the embassy. He called for the removal of al-Malki from his position as Foreign Minister and the recall of the ambassador, Al-Madhbouh, for investigation and questioning, as well as the formation of a specialized, independent investigation committee to hold those responsible accountable.
The interview text follows:
A. In the beginning, we must proceed in dealing with the case of the martyr Comrade Omar Nayef Zayed by emphasizing proven facts and only facts: those that were already known by us, and those obtained later, and those revealed before and after the cowardly crime of assassination.
We say this so as to not delude or mislead ourselves and others, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and not to do anyone an injustice, especially the martyr himself. Investigations are still continuing, and every day new facts and evidence appear and rise to the surface.
What some do not know, perhaps, is that the martyr was daily writing his diary, recording what was happening to him in detail, and that we asked him constantly to write and record his experience. As such, we have over 600 messages and documents of that experience, and not one of them is without great value as evidence and testimony.
We can say that the forcing of Omar Nayef Zayed into the embassy building was a criminal plot that was carried out in dark rooms with the participation of several parties. The role of the Zionist state and its intelligence service, as well as that of its agents, was critical in pushing him inside the embassy. This is certain and is not open to interpretation or debate.
Q. The martyr Omar Nayef Zayed was exposed to harassment and threats to leave the embassy, and even to turn him over to the occupation. What were the details of these threats?
A. The harassment and intimidation suffered by Omar Nayef Zayed did not stop for even one day, including the threat of extradition to the occupation “within 24 hours,” in the words of Ambassador Ahmed al-Madhbouh, and we have proof of this.
We do not accuse people haphazardly, this was a direct threat for him to be handed over to the enemy. This is what prompted the Popular Front to issue a statement on December 28, 2015 warning Ambassador Ahmed al-Madhbouh of the consequences of his extradition to the occupation, and the consequences and repercussions of any such action.
We do not know the reason why today there has been no action in implementing the call of the Popular Front and the family of the martyr, to call the ambassador for interrogation and serious questioning. The ongoing failure to do this puts all of the agencies of the Authority, from top to bottom, in the circle of suspicion and shame.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry and the Palestinian Embassy dealt with the martyr Omar Nayef Zayed as a hostage without rights. He would not even receive the rights of political prisoners, or even at times the rights of the resisting Palestinian prisoners in Zionist jails!
He was prevented from exercising the most basic natural, human and legal rights, for example that of consulting with lawyers, meeting with his colleagues, receiving delegations of international solidarity, and even receiving a normal medical examination.
The ambassador and his staff dealt with Omar with the logic of the jailer and engaged in shady and conspiratorial behavior, which reflects the state of decay in the institutions of the Palestinian Authority and confirms to all of us how the Palestinian reality is now standing on its head. For in the Palestinian popular arena, Omar Nayef Zayed is the true ambassador of the Palestinian people and not Ahmad al-Madhbouh.
This constant pressure affected not only Omar, but also his family and his wife. The ambassador practiced the worst kinds of psychological terror against this struggling family.
Today, the Minister and the Ambassador are lying and misleading before the commission of inquiry, covering the reality and the killer in rumors, false justifications and lies. Those who bear the greatest responsibility are the greatest source of such lies and only fall more deeply into shame.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry joined with its ambassador, and continue to do so up to the present moment, to cover up its dereliction of duty and conniving. The ministry issued only one meager statement on the case of the martyr, in which it defended the ambassador and announced the formation of a “crisis cell,” but this cell was only a lie to escape the pressure of the Popular Front, the family, and the campaign to support Omar.
The Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki acted in a conspiratorial and underhanded manner in this context, and repeatedly and personally thwarted efforts on Omar’s behalf both before and after his death.
Q. Despite these threats, why did the Popular Front or Omar’s comrades not take all measures to ensure his safety and security, for example to remove him from the embassy? Did they only issue a statement warning of the consequences if he was turned over to the embassy?
A. This is a legitimate question. As long as Omar was killed, then the efforts to protect him were insufficient. Any other words become insufficient and a means of justification, and should be rejected by the martyr, his family, and others.
Our people have the right to ask all questions and hold everyone accountable. In the end, they are the holder of Omar’s blood and sacrifices. The martyr Omar Nayef Zayed is the son of every Palestinian and of the Arab nation, before he is a member, cadre or leader in the Popular Front.
The Front leadership has made great and deep efforts on this case outside public view, and not only a statement as stated in the question. It is my conviction that the Front will respond strongly, which at this point does not need authorization.
The conviction of the martyr, and also our conviction was that, despite everything, despite all the pressure, he would remain physically safe within the embassy as he worked to find a political and legal solution and exit to his situation. The international solidarity campaign was growing and beginning to have a political impact and his legal case was developing. However, the enemy was faster and the state of collusion reached by the Oslo Authority exceeded all limits and lines. It seems some have decided to fall to the very bottom of the mud of shame.
Assassinations have been one of the oldest means of the Zionist entity, and since its inception and until the present day, they were carried out mostly with complicity on the inside of collaborators. The castle is taken from the inside, as they say, and this fact should prompt us to act against these corrupt few if we are to protect our internal front and draw the proper conclusions and lessons.
Q. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, one of the international groups that has followed this issue from the beginning, said that Palestinian Ambassador Ahmad al-Madhbouh rejected the visits of lawyers and representatives of the network to the martyr. Do you have more information on this subject?
A. The martyr did not only trust Samidoun Network, which led a campaign of solidarity with him, both at the legal level and in the popular international campaign, but was in contact on a daily basis with its activists.
From his first week in refuge in the Palestinian embassy, Samidoun sent lawyer and international coordinator Charlotte Kates to Sofia, but the ambassador refused to allow her to meet with Omar, prevented her from seeing him, and instead warned his family against bringing international delegations and lawyers to meet with Omar.
They then sent the lawyer Jan Fermon from Brussels, a well-known international lawyer and the General Secretary of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. The ambassador also initially rejected his visit, but conceded to allow his legal visit with Omar only after a concerted campaign of pressure inside and outside Palestine.
Samidoun also offered to send a doctor to conduct tests on Omar and provide a physical examination, through his family; this request was also ignored by the ambassador.
There is much to be said in this context, which indicates that the behavior from Ahmad al-Madhbouh since the first day is that of suspicion, and this is a reality that cannot be erased. And the spirit of the martyr Omar Nayef Zayed will haunt him all his life.
Q. What is the role of the Palestinian intelligence in this? Was there not a security delegation sent to Sofia to follow up on the case of Omar Nayef Zayed?
A. This “security delegation” was a means by which the Palestinian intelligence service came to exert pressure on Omar. On the first day they took on the role of “bad cop” and then changed their tone and with the role of “good cop,” made promises of assistance, and protection, and then left, or so we were told at least. This is another issue that must be examined by a commission of inquiry. The intelligence service and its director Majed Faraj must be subject to investigation and accountability.
What was this “security delegation” that came to Sofia, and did not act on the lack of even a single camera inside or outside the embassy? Even the absence of a building guard or a single security guard on the door; they did not say anything? They were either negligent or complicit. And I believe that these elements were often derelict in their duty and lacked even the minimal national and professional responsibility.
The Ambassador procrastinated in providing cameras and guards, under the pretext of a lack of budget for the embassy. We ask today how he got the required budget and installed the cameras and hired a guard for the embassy after the death of Omar?
Q. What is required now from the PLO?
A. The immediate dismissal of Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki and the recall of Ambassador Ahmad al-Madhbouh for questioning, and the formation of a specialized, professional and independent committee of investigation. More precisely, uncovering the roles of those who put themselves in the circle of shame and suspicion.
The committee set up by the Authority, headed by Tayseer Jaradat, failed. This is no surprise, no one succeeds to investigate himself.
Those who defend themselves will put themselves in the same situation. There is much to be said. It is our people’s right to know the truth, the whole truth.