UPDATE/11:44 am/26 February: Bulgarian media and police sources are reporting that Omar was killed by falling from a high story of the building. They have noted that him being pushed is “not excluded.”  “Israeli media have been the first to report explicitly that Omar was ‘assassinated.’ This comes as no surprise. They’re simply the most knowledgeable and honest about the workings of their government and its intelligence agencies,” said Joe Catron of Samidoun.

Omar Nayef Zayed, a former Palestinian political prisoner and escaped hunger striker whose extradition from Bulgaria Israel demanded in December, was found dead this morning inside the Palestinian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he had sought refuge.

“Omar Nayef Zayed was targeted as a Palestinian, as a struggler, as a former political prisoner,” Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said. “His case, his targeting and his assassination were an attempt to demonstrate that no Palestinian anywhere is safe from the long arms of the Israeli occupation. This is clearly a threat to all Palestinians – especially former prisoners and veterans of the struggle in Europe. We are committed to stand with the family of Omar Nayef Zayed to pursue accountability for those responsible for taking his life and to build the movement for which his life was taken – for a free Palestine.”

The precise physical cause of Omar’s death is not yet clear, but it is clear that the cause of his death is the Israeli state’s vengeance against a Palestinian struggler committed to live free for himself and for all of his fellow Palestinians. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network demands an independent autopsy of Omar’s body and a full investigation by Bulgarian and Palestinian officials into the death of Omar. We demand that all those responsible for the targeting of Omar Nayef Zayed and the taking of his life be held fully accountable.

“We hold Israel and its intelligence services, the Palestinian Authority and the Bulgarian government responsible for the killing of Omar Nayef Zayed, whose life was taken as he lived his life, in the struggle for freedom for Palestine,” Mohammed Khatib, a Brussels, Belgium-based member of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said.  “He was assassinated; he was not protected; and he was constantly threatened and pursued.  The Israeli intelligence services have a long history of pursuing and assassinating Palestinians around the world – especially in Europe – targeting young leaders and veteran resisters for assassination and elimination. This outrageous crime happened inside the Palestinian embassy, inside Bulgaria. The killers and those who made this killing possible must be held accountable.”

Zayed, 52, was born in Jenin, in Palestine’s West Bank. He was arrested by occupation forces in May 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After a 40 day hunger strike in 1990, he was transferred to a hospital in Bethlehem where he escaped in May, disappeared and left Palestine.

In 1994, he traveled to Bulgaria. Omar married a Bulgarian citizen and has Bulgarian children; he runs a Palestinian grocery and is well-known in the Palestinian community of Sofia.

On Tuesday, 15 December, the Israeli embassy sent a letter to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice demanding the extradition of Omar Nayef Zayed, labeling him a “fugitive from justice.”

Omar’s home was raided on Thursday, 17 December. He was not home and his son was arrested for one day. The Bulgarian prosecutor was quoted in Arabic media calling for his imprisonment and quick extradition to Tel Aviv.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes and mourns Omar Nayef Zayed, a former Palestinian political prisoner who struggled all his life for the freedom of Palestine and the Palestinian people. We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Omar Nayef Zayed, in Palestine, in Bulgaria and everywhere, and to the entire movement for the liberation of Palestine,  which has had a loving father and husband and a committed struggler for a free Palestine taken away at the hands of those who would see Palestine, and its people, forever imprisoned.  We are committed to working in all ways to hold those responsible for his death fully accountable for this vicious crime against the Palestinian people, and to struggle for the freedom – of Palestinian prisoners and of Palestine itself – which Omar Nayef Zayed held so dear.