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Holland says Israeli Minister Ami Ayalon persona non grata

Oct. 7, 2008 12:29 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2008 12:29 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli Minister Ami Ayalon has been declared a persona non grata in the Netherlands, after having a case filed against him in the Dutch courts accusing him of torturing Palestinian Khalid Al-Shami during his time as head of Israel's Shin Bet.

It was revealed on Tuesday that "secret negotiations" had taken place during Ayalon's visit to the Netherlands in May 2008. Just prior to his arrival in the country, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) alongside the Amsterdam law office of Böhler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden approached the courts asking for an arrest warrant for Ayalon.

According to PCHR Director Raji Sourani the evidence presented to the Dutch attorney-general was sound and satisfied all legal requirements. The group initially received a positive response from Dutch court officials but no arrest warrant was ever issued. In fact, Ayalon only learned about the matter after returning to Israel.

The Israeli press reported that Dutch officials had contacted the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs in advance. Israel requested that no legal action be taken and that "due to Holland's speedy and positive response to Israel's plea, the possibility of spiriting Ayalon out of the country immediately, as was the case with Minister Shaul Mofaz's visit to London, was not considered."

Lawyers for Mr Al-Shami filed a case in the Dutch court of appeal at The Hague on Monday, requesting an order for Dutch prosecution to begin criminal investigations into Ayalon and an extradition order to ensure that he would be present during any trial.

While it is unclear whether the criminal case against Ayalon will move forward or not, Sourani noted that Dutch officials have indicated that the Israeli minister is not persona non grata in the country.

Al-Shami was left permanently injured after being tortured by Israeli soldiers following his December 1999 arrest in Gaza City. He was taken to Ashkelon prison and interrogated for 20 days in sessions that ranged, according to PCHR, between 20 and 40 hours each. Al-Shami was kept confined in a 2x2 meter cell between interrogation sessions, and repeatedly subjected to nearly freezing temperatures without adequate clothing, handcuffed and shackled to a chair for hours and "stretched" before he was ever brought before a judge.

Following his first 20 days of interrogation and torture, Al-Shami was brought before a military court without representation and sentenced to an additional thirty days, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement. He says that "collaborators" forced him to sign a confession for crimes he did not commit, and that he is permanently injured as a result of his torture.

Al-Shami's case is the third example of recent actions being brought against Israeli officials, and in one case a construction company building settlements in the West Bank. In Spain seven Israeli officials are being charged with using disproportionate force for a 2002 extrajudicial killing, during which 15 civilians (mostly women and children) were killed in Gaza during the assassination of a factional leader.

In Canadian courts, suits have been filed against Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International, both registered in the Canadian province of Quebec, for acting as agents of Israel in the commission of war crimes. The two companies are illegally constructing residential and other buildings on lands under the municipal jurisdiction of the village of Bil'in.
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