Palestinians in Ramallah gathered for a sit-in outside the headquarters of the European Union on 11 January, in solidarity with former political prisoner Omar Nayef Zayed, now being pursued for extradition from Bulgaria by the Israeli state.
The protest came as part of an international week of action in solidarity with Zayed, with actions in Gaza, New York, London, Brussels, Berlin and elsewhere. The protests are united in demanding the Bulgarian government reject the extradition request against Zayed, who has taken refuge in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia. He has lived in Bulgaria for the past 22 years. His wife Rania and three children are Bulgarian citizens. Zayed escaped Israeli imprisonment in 1990 after a 40-day hunger strike.
The protesters, who included former long-term hunger striker, Palestinian lawyer Muhammad Allan, emphasized their rejection of the ongoing Israeli persecution of Palestinian strugglers, and denounced the actions against Zayed as an attempt to label the Palestinian movement as “terrorist” and “criminal.” They expressed their solidarity with his case as a Palestinian national political issue, and called on Bulgaria – and the European Union as a whole – to reject this extradition attempt by the Israeli occupation.
Omar Shehadeh of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine spoke at the rally, saying that if Bulgaria turns over Zayed to the occupation, it would set a dangerous precedent for the ongoing pursuit of Palestinians outside Palestine under the pretext of “terrorism.” He emphasized that Zayed is not a criminal, but a struggler for Palestine.
Khitam Saafin, chair of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, emphasized the responsibility of the Palestine Liberation Organization to provide full protection for Omar Nayef Zayed and his family. She denounced the actions of the Bulgarian authorities, including raiding Zayed’s home, in this case, saying that extraditing Zayed would make Bulgaria a partner in the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people.
Photos and reporting contributed by Reham Alhelsi of A Voice from Palestine.