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April 1, 2023

Omar Hayssam, handed over to Romanian Police

Omar Hayssam is in the custody of the Romanian Police, having been handed over to policemen on Friday morning, at 6:40 local time, the spokesman of the head of state, Bogdan Oprea stated.
The Presidential Administration announced on Friday morning that Hayssam was handed over to the Romanian Police. “In the morning of July 19, Omar Hayssam was delivered to the Romanian Police. Bringing him under the authority of the Romanian state institutions in order to serve the sentence of 20 years in prison on counts of terrorism, in the case of the three Romanian journalists kidnapped in Iraq, as the Romanian law courts ruled, is the result of complex activities carried out for a long time by the national security institutions of the Romanian state,” stated the Presidency spokesman, Bogdan Oprea, according to a press release.
According to the quoted source, President Traian Basescu thanked the institutions and officers involved in this extensive operation, who, for more than five years, tenaciously pursued the target of bringing Omar Hayssam to the country, to serve his punishment, after being convicted of terrorism in the case file of the journalists abducted in Iraq.
The Presidential Administration stressed that it understands the media interest in this subject and the wish for knowing the details of the operation to bring Omar Hayssam to Romania, at the same time pointing out that further details can not be disclosed.
The information that Omar Hayssam was handed over to the Romanian Police was confirmed also by the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police who added that Hayssam was taken to a center for remand on the basis of the three mandates emitted on his name for terrorism, fraudulent bankruptcy and fraud.
Also, the DIICOT prosecutors asked the Bucharest Court for Hayssam’s temporary arrest in the file in which he is trialed for dilapidation and the Court will discuss this demand tomorrow. In his turn, the minister of Internal Affairs Radu Stroe, confirmed the fact that Omar Hayssam is detained by the Romanian Police.
On the other hand, the representatives of The Penitentiaries’ National Authority stated that Omar Hayssam could be jailed at the Rahova Penitentiary after his arrival in Romania, adding that they didn’t have any information about this at that moment.
Also on Friday, president Traian Basescu said he did not confirm the fact that Omar Hayssam had been taken over from Syria. He was asked about the place from where Hayssam was taken over, given that he did not confirm that it was Syria. “There lies the key. How should I put it? Romania conducted an unauthorised operation in a foreign land. I can neither confirm, nor deny anything,” Basescu told journalists at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
“I want you to know I do not confirm, I reiterate, I do not confirm that Omar Hayssam has been taken over from Syria. Also, I do not confirm that he was repatriated with a Romanian Army aircraft. I do not confirm that he was repatriated based on an extradition agreement,” President Basescu pointed out, in a statement made at the Cotroceni Palace.
He underscored that the information about Hayssam was broadcast on Friday morning by the Presidential Administration because “it was about the repatriation of a convict on terrorism charges.”
He maintained that Omar Hayssam’s repatriation was an operation assumed on the level it had to be assumed and it was successfully conducted. “I want you to know one more thing, to have a clear image. Such an operation could not have taken place in one day or in one week or in three months. It was an effort of a very small team of people, who, for about five years or more than five years, have been in charge of this process of bringing Omar Hayssam to Romania,” President Basescu said.
He also explained the reasons for which Omar Hayssam was brought to Romania at this moment. “When he left, Omar Hayssam had no mandate banning him from leaving the country, I do not comment the reason, and no institution was demanded any surveillance system, be it that of the Interior Ministry, or of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). In 2006, when he fled the country, Omar Hayssam could have been accused of fraudulent border crossing, for which he was convicted to two years in prison. To the law enforcement institutions of the country, Omar Hayssam became a problem when he was convicted to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges. By this conviction, the benefit of the doubt had functioned. This conviction occurred in 2008 and then the security structures had the obligation to bring Omar Hayssam home to fulfill the justice resolutions – the 20 years in prison conviction. Only in 2008, following the conviction at the High Court of Cassation and Justice had he become a major objective for fulfilling justice,” the head of state underscored.
The President congratulated the institutions that were involved in the repatriation of Omar Hayssam. “I want to congratulate the institutions involved in the effort, over these five years, because these are the only ones not talking and not making public statements,” Traian Basescu said.
Moreover, the head of state pointed out that “starting this moment, in the Omar Hayssam issue,” he could rest assured that he did everything is his power for justice to be fulfilled.
The head of state pointed out that his statement on the case of Omar Hayssam came from the need to make some clarifications, to protect the interests of the Romanian State, in the context in which dignitaries, former ministers and former chiefs of services made public statements. “A few aspects need to be clarified, because, otherwise, we risk being appreciated under the deserved level by none others than our partners in the EU, in NATO and our friends all over the world,” Basescu said.
The president also said that Omar Hayssam will not have to serve 20 years in prison only and that he should cooperate with the Romanian justice, considering his age. “Considering Omar Hayssam’s age and the fact that he has already three sentences to serve in prison, 20 years, 16 years and two years, I do not believe that, when sentences are cumulated, he will only have to serve 20 years in prison, I do not believe if I consider what has happened to Gigi Becali. And then, considering his age, maybe it is better if he cooperates with the institutions of the Romanian State, with the Romanian justice, as 25 years is a long time and when one is old, it is much too long,” added Basescu.
PM-PRESIDENT row on the operation
PM Victor Ponta stated that Romania has a rendition Treaty with Syria, later on rectifying the information. The premier also said that during the latest months, the relevant institutions informed him about the possibility that Omar Hayssam could be brought back to Romania. “Over the latest months, I’ve been all the time informed by the relevant institutions about the possibility of his being fetched back to the country. I approved and assented to the logistic support the Defence Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Interior gave to this legal operation to be conducted,” PM Ponta said at the headquarters of the National Authority for Property Restitution.
According to Ponta bringing Omar Hayssam to Romania is the success of the Romanian State institutions such as the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice. He underscored that he doesn’t know about any role of the Presidency in bringing Hayssam to Romania, adding that “yes, they did have a role, they wrote the press release”. Ponta mentioned also that the operation of bringing Hayssam to Romania was approved by the Government, saying that “he can’t tell stories with Rambo who saves people”.
Ponta-Blaga disputes and accusations
PDL leader Vasile Blaga stated on Friday that Hayssam’s detention is, without discussion, an important success for the Romanian state, adding that bringing him to Romania “was an effort of the president Traian Basescu and of the state institutions”. The statement comes after PM Ponta said that the presidency had no role in bringing Omar Hayssam to Romania and was supported by the former premier Emil Boc who stated the same as Blaga.
Blaga also said that Ponta “fears Hayssam’s coming to Romania” explaining that, in 2005, when the three journalists were kidnapped, Ponta and Adrian Nastase “were robbing Romania together”.
In his turn, PM Ponta said that Blaga, who was Interior minister in the period when Omar Hayssam ran from Romania, should explain how stupid a minister can be in order to allow escaping a dangerous delinquent. The premier also stated that bringing Omar Hayssam to Romania could be unpleasant especially for those persons that still talk during their sleep and that fell off the bed this morning, adding that Vasile Blaga was the one that ran the Interior Ministry in 2006 when Hayssam escaped from Romania.
Following these attacks, the presidential advisor Sebastian Lazaroiu wrote, on Facebook, that Ponta “flaunts” the merits for bringing Hayssam to Romania, though he “carelessly slept last night”. In return, Ponta said he doesn’t give “two cents” on Lazaroiu’s statements regarding the Hayssam case and added that he didn’t “flaunt” anything.
Who is Hayssam?
Omar Hayssam is a Syrian-born Romanian financier who was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison after a Romanian court found him guilty of masterminding the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq in 2005. In the kidnapping incident, Prima TV reporter Marie Jeanne Ion, cameraman Sorin Miscoci, and Ovidiu Ohanesian, a journalist working for the newspaper Romania Libera, were abducted on March 28, 2005 in Baghdad, where they were covering the Iraq War. According to reports, the group of kidnappers included Mahmoud Khaled Al-Omar, Abdel Jabbar Abbas Jasem Al-Samani, Ibrahim Yassin Kaathem Al-Jabouri, Omar Jassam Muhammad Ali Al-Salmani, and Yussef Munaf Muhammad Amin Al-Amin (the brother of Mohammad Munaf). On April 1, the kidnappers transferred the three journalists to the Mouadh Ibn Jabal Brigade, who locked them in the same cellar where Florence Aubenas, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, and five other hostages were held. The hostage-takers demanded the retreat of the 860 Romanian troops in Iraq in return for the journalists’ release. The Romanian journalists were rescued after 55 days in captivity. Hayssam was arrested in Romania on April 5, 2005. Prosecutors charged him and Mohammad Munaf, the journalists’ Iraqi guide and Hayssam’s business partner, with organizing the abduction to help Hayssam escape organized crime charges. According to the prosecutors, Hayssam organized the kidnapping because he was being investigated in several cases of financial fraud, and was looking for a way to leave the country with a large sum of money.
Hayssam disappeared from Romania in 2006 after a local court let him leave a prison hospital to recover at home, following surgery for colon cancer. It has been speculated that he left on July 12, 2006 from the Black Sea port of Midia, aboard a freight boat transporting young rams to the Middle East. His escape triggered the resignation of the chief prosecutor and the heads of Romanian secret services in July 2006.

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