Demonstrators in New York City called for justice for Omar Nayef Zayed on Friday, 8 April, as part of an international call for action for justice in the case of the former Palestinian prisoner who was found dead in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria on 26 February.
Part of the ongoing weekly protests for freedom and justice for Palestinian political prisoners organized by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in New York City, the demonstration began outside the Bulgarian consulate. Participants carried Palestinian flags and signs demanding justice and accountability in the death of Nayef Zayed, and an immediate transparent and independent investigation into the case.
Nayef Zayed’s family in Bulgaria have been pushing for the release of the forensic report and the results of the criminal investigation in the case, which remain unknown. Nayef Zayed, a former Palestinian prisoner and struggler with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who had escaped Israeli jails in 1990 and fled to Bulgaria, had taken refuge in the embassy since December 2015, after the Israeli state requested his extradition from Bulgaria.
Previous protests in New York while Nayef Zayed was alive and seeking refuge highlighted the case, demanding that Bulgaria reject the extradition request and protect him as a former political prisoner sought for persecution by the occupier and colonizer of Palestinian land and people. This protest in New York, marking the 40th day after his death, was joined by actions in Hamburg, Sofia, Berlin, Wuppertal, Copenhagen and elsewhere.
When protesters arrived at the Bulgarian consulate they were met by two New York police officers, who observed the demonstration. When one participant rang the doorbell of the Bulgarian consulate in order to deliver a message from the demonstrators to the consular officials calling for action on the case, the police present attempted to stop her before lawyers participating in the protest affirmed her rights.
The demonstrators then marched from the Bulgarian consulate to the Palestinian mission to the United Nations, located only blocks away.
Nayef Zayed’s family and comrades have highlighted the role of the Palestinian Authority in his case. While he sought refuge in the embassy, the Palestinian ambassador in Sofia, Ahmad al-Madhbouh, regularly pressured Nayef Zayed to leave the embassy and denied him visits from lawyers and solidarity delegations.
When arriving at the Palestinian mission, the demonstrators were met by a police car filled with NYPD “counter-terrorism” officers; the NYPD had seemingly been alerted to the demonstration by the mission. In addition, a representative of the U.S. State Department was present outside the mission, who identified himself as a State Department liaison to mediate between demonstrators, the mission and the police.
The NYPD’s role in infiltrating Palestinian and solidarity organizations, as well as surveilling Arab and Muslim communities and pursuing members of the community for repression and entrapment, has been well-documented. Of course, the NYPD’s repression of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities and activism comes alongside its long, violent history in Black and other oppressed communities in the city; the recent police killings of Eric Garner, Kimani Gray, Ramarley Graham and Akai Gurley are only the latest prominent examples of the killings and police violence against the community.
The U.S. State Department liaison, regularly engaged in telephone conversations with staff inside the Palestinian Authority mission, first asked protesters to stay away from the doors of the mission and then to go across the street from the mission; the whole time, participants chanted only “Free Free Palestine,” “Long Live Palestine,” and “Justice for Omar,” carrying Palestinian flags. No one from the mission came to speak with the participants or to express concern or support for Nayef Zayed’s case.
While the demonstrators called for justice for Nayef Zayed outside the Palestinian mission, they were joined by two Palestinian teens who, while walking by, discovered and joined the demonstration, raising their voices for justice.
Samidoun in New York City will protest next Friday, 15 April at 4 pm at its regular location for a pre-Palestinian Prisoners Day protest outside the offices of G4S, the multinational security conglomerate that provides equipment, security services and control rooms for Israeli prisons, police training centers and checkpoints, demanding that G4S leave Palestine immediately and freedom for all Palestinian prisoners. On Sunday, 17 April, Samidoun will join CUNY Prison Divest and New York City Students for Justice in Palestine for a prison divestment protest on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, demanding an end to the massive public investments and subsidies for private corporations that profit from repression and mass incarceration from the US to Palestine.
Photos: Joe Catron