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The Region

Jackson Seeks to Free 2 Americans

Prisoners: He offers to visit Israel to press for release of an Anaheim doctor, second worker.

May 11, 2002|TERESA WATANABE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has joined a growing national campaign to free two American medical relief workers being held in Israel on suspicion of terrorist activities, a Jackson staff member said Friday.

In a phone call to Israeli Embassy officials in Washington this week, Jackson offered to fly to Israel to seek the release of Anaheim physician Riad Abdelkarim and Dallas charity worker Dalell Mohmed, said Tracy K. Rice, Los Angeles bureau chief for Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition. She added that Jackson was also expected to speak to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres about the two relief workers, who were arrested Sunday in Israel but have not yet been formally charged with any crimes.

Jackson, who has helped win the release of captured U.S. soldiers in Syria and Belgrade, told Israeli Embassy official Rafael Barak that "he was very concerned that these were two people on a relief mission who should be allowed to return to the United States," Rice said. She said Jackson had concluded from all the background information that Abdelkarim is a well-respected doctor innocent of any terrorist activities.

Israeli authorities say they have not released evidence against the two because of national security concerns. Both detainees are members of the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic relief organization outlawed by Israel and closed down in the U.S. by federal authorities last December on charges that it funneled money to the militant Hamas group. Hamas has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and other terrorist activity.

Abdelkarim, however, was found to be uninvolved by the FBI, whose agents questioned him about his Holy Land connections last fall after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Holy Land members deny any terrorist connections and are suing the U.S. government for freezing the organization's funds.

Abdelkarim has started a hunger strike to protest his detention, his brother Basil said. At the request of Israeli authorities, he has also agreed to take a polygraph test, against the advice of his attorney, according to Abdelkarim's congressman, Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach).

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