Libya frees Israeli photographer in Gaza aid deal

JERUSALEM - Libya has freed an Israeli photographer detained by its security services for five months, as part of a secret Austrian-mediated deal, an Israeli official said on Monday.

By (AP)

Published: Mon 9 Aug 2010, 12:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:47 AM

Israel Radio said Rafael Hadad was arrested as a suspected spy in March after travelling to Libya, which is technically at war with Israel, on a Tunisian passport — his second travel document. But the official ruled out espionage in the case.

Hadad, 34, flew to Vienna on Sunday night and was met by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had negotiated for his return through an Austrian businessman with links to the Libyan leadership, the official said.

The talks coincided with the sailing last month of a Libyan-chartered aid ship for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli naval blockade.

Libya had asked Israel to allow the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea to reach Gaza in exchange for Hadad, the official said. In a compromise, the Amalthea docked instead in the nearby Egyptian port of El Arish, and Israel agreed that some 20 prefabricated structures in its cargo be admitted to Gaza.

Hadad went to Libya to photograph Jewish heritage sites on behalf of Ohr Shalom, an Israeli organisation for Libyan expatriates, its director Pedatzur Ben-Atia told Israel Radio.

The Israeli official described Hadad as “an innocent civilian” and said that during the negotiations the Libyans had not levelled espionage allegations.

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