Protests in Sofia demand justice, accountability for Omar Nayef Zayed


The Palestinian community in Sofia, Bulgaria protested on two consecutive days, 15 and 16 March, for justice for Omar Nayef Zayed, who was found dead inside the Palestinian embassy in Sofia on 26 February where he had taken refuge from an Israeli extradition demand being carried out by Bulgarian police.

Nayef Zayed had lived in Bulgaria for 22 years after escaping Israeli imprisonment in 1990 and fleeing Palestine. He was married, with three children, and an active member of the Palestinian community; he was a permanent resident of Bulgaria, while his wife and children are Bulgarian citizens.

Nayef Zayed’s family and Palestinian political forces have denounced his killing, and highlighted the Israeli intelligence agency’s historic and present role in assassinations of Palestinian leaders and activists inside and outside Palestine, especially those who have been declared “wanted” by Israel. He was found in the garden of the embassy after being pushed or falling from a height; there were no security cameras or security guards in the building.


The killing of Nayef Zayed, which remains under investigation by Bulgarian police, has been protested throughout Palestine and internationally, where Palestinians and their supporters have highlighted the role of the Israeli state and its intelligence agencies, the Bulgarian security forces, and the Palestinian Authority in his death. In particular, campaigners have highlighted the role of Palestinian Ambassador Ahmad al-Madhbouh in pushing him inside the embassy, denying him access to visitors, lawyers and doctors (including representatives of Samidoun), threatening to force him to leave or turn him in to the Bulgarians for extradition, threatening to bar access to his wife, and otherwise creating an even more intense situation of pressure on Omar, while failing to provide even the minimum needs for his security, such as installing cameras, controlling access to keys at the embassy, or hiring a security guard.

Palestinian political organizations, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the leftist organization with which Nayef Zayed was affiliated, and influential figures like former prisoner and long-term hunger striker Khader Adnan have called for the resignation and investigation of al-Madhbouh and Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, responsible for Nayef Zayed’s case and the conduct of Palestinian embassies.

The Palestinian community protested on Tuesday, 15 March outside the Palestinian Embassy where Nayef Zayed had sought refuge for 70 days and where his bloodied body was found on 26 February, demanding the resignation of Madhbouh and Malki, and justice in the case. A Palestinian Authority delegation was sent to Sofia shortly after the killing; however, this body contained no criminal investigators, pathologists, or other experts and only political appointees. The family withdrew from this committee and has urged the formation of a second committee comprised of independent experts. A Palestinian prosecutors’ representative is in Sofia for additional investigation of the case, but without a committee of experts who can, for example, provide an independent autopsy. Reports indicated yesterday that a new official Palestinian committee will be formed that includes forensic pathologists, prosecutors and lawyers.

On 16 March, Palestinians in Sofia, joined by Nayef Zayed’s wife, Rania, and their three children, protested outside the central courthouse in Sofia, urging a just resolution to the ongoing investigation of the case, free of political interference or intimidation. They called for justice for Nayef Zayed and the prosecution of those responsible for his death, and for full exposure of the facts of his killing, despite political pressure from the Israeli state.