Libya frees Israeli citizen in secret deal
Secret negotiations between Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Libyan authorities came to a conclusion Sunday night when an Israeli who disappeared in March was released from a Libyan prison. Rafael (Rafram) Haddad, who is active in a society that seeks to preserve Libyan Jewish history, arrived in Vienna late Sunday after five months in prison.
Haddad, who holds dual Israeli and Tunisian passports, was due in Israel on Monday.
According to Haaretz, the ordeal started in March, when Haddad arrived in Libya to photograph buildings that once belonged to the Jewish community. While photographing one of the buildings, he was detained by the local police and subsequently handed over to the Libyan intelligence authorities, on suspicions that he was a spy.
According to a senior Israeli government official, at the time of his arrest Hadad managed to call his relatives in Tunisia, where he had been living for several years after moving there from Israel. The relatives contacted the Israeli foreign ministry, which opened contacts with Libya via several secret channels.
Italy's intelligence agency played a central role in early attempts to free Hadad. Two months ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor approached Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff, a friend of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader.
Schlaff returned with a Libyan offer of a deal and Israel eventually allowed the cargo of a Libyan aid ship into the Gaza Strip in exchange for Hadad's release.