Secret US 'kidnapping' of Palestinian fails after day long wait on Tel Aviv tarmac

Secret US 'kidnapping' of Palestinian fails after day long wait on Tel Aviv tarmac
Abdelhaleem Ashqar thought he had a routine appointment with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead he was whisked to an airport for deportation to Israel and then the West Bank.
2 min read
08 June, 2019
Abdelhaleem Ashqar's snap deportation to Israel was thwarted by a US judge [The Washington Post/Getty]
An attempt by the United States to secretly extradite Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a Palestinian business professor who ran for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, failed on Wednesday.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were hoping to secretly deport Ashqar, who has been detained in the US for the past ten years, to Israel and then to the West Bank, Electronic Intifada reported.

But after landing in Tel Aviv, the plane was met by a US embassy official who informed the ICE agents escorting Ashqar that the hand over would have to wait in compliance with an emergency order issued by a federal judge back in Virginia.

Ashqar waited on the plane in Tel Aviv for over a day and was then returned to the US. Mu'ayyad Hasan al-Ashqar told The New Arab that his brother returned to the United States on Friday morning and is now being held in a detention center in West Virginia.

Hasan al-Ashqar described the ordeal faced by his brother as a "kidnapping".

According to Ashqar and his lawyer Patrick Taurel, the ICE deliberately lied in attempt to extradite Ashqar - thwarted only by the intervention of US District Judge T.S. Ellis III who held a late-night hearing by telephone.

Ashqar was accused, alongside Muhammad Salah, in a 2007 "terrorism trial" in Chicago of being a key member of a US based Hamas fund raising network. They were both acquitted of all Hamas-linked charges.

But Ashqar was sentenced in 2007 on one count of criminal contempt in court after refusing to testify and received an "extraordinary harsh sentence of 11 years".

At the end of his sentence in 2017, the ICE were ready to deport him "but no country would take him".

Ashqar was released by US authorities in December 2018 and was asked in May this year to appear before the ICE.

Although the ICE claimed it was a routine check-in, Ashqar was handed an order revoking his release when he arrived for his appointment. He was then brought to an airport in Virginia and flown to Tel Aviv.

Ashqar's family and lawyer were extremely relieved to hear the "kidnapping" attempt had failed and that Ashqar was en-route back to the United States on Thursday.

Taurel told Electronic Intifada he does not know what the ICE will attempt next and that Ashqar’s legal team is looking at all options.

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