Death of Palestinian Man in Sofia Remains Shrouded in Mystery
Palestinian officials have claimed that a Palestinian man found dead in the garden of the Palestinian embassy in Sofia had been assassinated by Israel, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported on Friday.
Omar Nayif Zayed, 52, had been found by Palestinian embassy staff lying in the embassy garden covered in blood, Palestinian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Taysir Jaradat has told Ma'an. The Bulgarian authorities rushed him to hospital but he died en route.
Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners' Affairs, has "quickly accused Israel's overseas intelligence agency Mossad of being behind the death," Ma’an said.
However, Jaradat didn’t initially blame anyone for the death, saying the Palestinian foreign ministry was investigating it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered an investigation into what he described as a crime, according to Ma’an.
The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, of which Omar Zayed was a member, accused Israel of being "responsible for the assassination’’, but also blamed Palestinian officials, who met with Bulgarian counterparts earlier this week, according to Ma’an. PFLP said: "This crime took place as the highest officials of the Palestinian Authority met with the highest officials of the Bulgarian state in Ramallah, with no apparent demands made for our pursued comrade."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the death of Omar Zayed was "not an Israeli issue,” according to timesofisrael.com. The news outlet also reported that officials at the ministry said that Israel had first learned of Omar Zayed’s death from the media.
On Thursday, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borisov met with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and separately with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Borisov also met his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah on Wednesday.
On 15 December 2015, Israel made a formal request for the extradition of Omar Zayed who had been sentenced to life in prison by a Jerusalem court in 1986 for the murder of an Israeli student. Two days later Omar Zayed had reportedly sought protection at the Palestinian embassy in Sofia.
Sofia-based bTV channel quoted Bulgaria’s Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov as saying on Friday: “Until now, there has been no official information whatsoever that this person was residing in the embassy or was occasionally staying there”.
Omar Zayed escaped from Israeli custody in 1990 and lived in several Arab countries before settling in Bulgaria in 1994. He married a Bulgarian woman with whom they had three children. Zayed was reluctant to surrender to Bulgarian authorities, fearing that the Bulgarian court would grant Israel’s request, his lawyer has said, according to middleeasteye.net.
Bulgarian public TV station BNT quoted Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as saying on Friday that the issue of Omar Zayed’s extradition had been raised in his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials earlier this week.
“We’ve told both sides that in Bulgaria there is rule of law,” BNT quoted Borisov as saying in Parliament in reference to the extradition process.
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