2 Palestinians freed from Abu Ghraib
- Palestinian diplomats freed from US jail in Iraq
Reuters via Jordan Times - May 31, 2004
BAGHDAD (Reuters) Two Palestinian diplomats have been released from
a year in US custody in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison in an
ordeal that the Palestinian charge d'affaires called a flagrant
violation of diplomatic norms. "I went to Abu Ghraib to meet them
yesterday. I saw the cells. Ninety men held in one barracks," Dalil
Al Qusous told Reuters.
"The Americans have no respect for diplomacy. When they came out it
was emotional. They said they thought they would never make it out."
Najah Abdel Rahman, 53, then Palestinian charge d'affaires, and
commercial attache Mounir Soubhi, in his mid forties, were held in
Abu Ghraib prison for alleged illegal possession of weapons and
suspicion of links to terrorism, Qusous said. US officials on Sunday
said they had no comment.
The United States said at the time that all diplomats lost immunity
after the fall of Saddam Hussein in April last year and Washington
did not recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the
representative of a sovereign state.
But Qusous called the detentions a blatant disregard for diplomatic
immunity in the name of US President George W. Bush's war on terror.
The diplomats' odyssey began on May 28, 2003 when employees arrived
at the embassy in the morning. Qusous fled when he saw the Americans
rounding up people. He later learned that the Americans had arrested
the two diplomats and 10 other people, including embassy security
guards and Iraqi gardeners.
"There were five Kalashnikov rifles and five pistols. These were
weapons that we had for 15 years as protection in the embassy during
Saddam's time," said Qusous.
He said the two diplomats were handcuffed and surrounded by barbed
wire outside the embassy building, where a soldier described them
They were taken to a detention facility at Baghdad airport where they
slept on the ground outdoors, and were later moved to Abu Ghraib a
notorious torture facility under Saddam which is now at the centre of
a prisoner abuse scandal by US soldiers.
Qusous said the diplomats did not experience the same trauma that
some Iraqi inmates did at the hands of the Americans but he stressed
that they faced generally poor conditions.
The veteran diplomat, who will return to his job as cultural attache
when Abdel Rahman is fit enough to take up his post again, said the
Palestinian experience at Abu Ghraib suggests anyone is vulnerable to
American detention in Iraq.
"They just arrest anybody they want," he said, sitting in his embassy
building with a dusty flag.
The US occupation has not been kind to Palestinians. Nearly 300
Palestinian families were evicted from their homes after the
invasion. Mohammad Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front
who masterminded a deadly 1985 Italian
cruise ship hijacking, died in US custody in March.
Qusous said the Americans are currently holding 15 Palestinian
students on the same allegations that sent the two diplomats to jail.
Qusous said the diplomats, who were born in Iraq after their parents
were displaced in 1948 from what is now Israel, were in bad shape and
needed to undergo medical tests.
For the last year he has worked with the Palestinian Authority and a
senior Arab diplomat in Baghdad to win their release. A former
Palestinian prime minister delivered a letter to Bush to plead on
their behalf, he said. "I met with Richard Jones [the US deputy
administrator in Iraq]. He told me they were held in relation to
terrorism. That was all he would say," said Qusous.
2 Palestinian diplomats freed from Abu Ghraib
BAGHDAD, May 30: Two Palestinian diplomats have been released after
being held for a year in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, a Palestinian
official said here on Sunday.
US forces arrested the two men, Najah Abdel Rahman, Palestinian
charge d'affaires, and Monir Subhi, the cultural attache, early last
year and their release was witnessed by an AFP photographer on
They were detained in mid-May 2003 with five other people working in
the Palestinian mission, said National Palestine Committee vice
president Anwar Al Sheikh. Iraqi-born Rahman told AFP that US forces
had levelled no charges against them and repeatedly promised that
they would be released.
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