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American Freed From Israeli Jail

May 20, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An American doctor held two weeks in an Israeli jail for allegedly having ties to Palestinian terrorists was set free and allowed to return home to California, family members said.

Dr. Riad Abdelkarim was expected to arrive Monday from Tel Aviv.

On Sunday, Abdelkarim was taken by Israeli authorities to Ben Gurion International Airport, where he called home while waiting for a flight to the United States, said his brother, Dr. Basil Abdelkarim.

Basil Abdelkarim said that during the telephone call, his 34-year-old brother and a father of four was in good spirits, and did not talk about his incarceration.

``You take so many things for granted in America until something like this happens,″ Basil Abdelkarim said. ``Then you think, how lucky we are to be free in America.″

A hearing scheduled Sunday for Israeli authorities to show why Riad Abdelkarim should continue to be held was canceled without explanation, his brother said.

``There are no charges, no actions against him,″ he said.

Israeli officials said they detained Abdelkarim ``on suspicion of membership of a terror organization″ _ the Holy Land Foundation. The Texas-based Islamic charity’s assets were frozen in December after the Bush administration accused it of being a front for the militant Palestinian organization Hamas.

Associates said they did not believe Abdelkarim’s membership in the group was the reason he was detained.

Before he was detained, the physician had traveled to a Palestinian refugee camp on behalf of two medical aid groups. In e-mail he described his visit to Jenin, where scores were killed in an Israeli military attack.

``I feel an uncomfortable mixture of sadness, grief, anger and shame. I also feel guilt,″ he wrote. ``My tax dollars helped pay for those bullets.″

Riad Abdelkarim, born in California of Palestinian parents, is a frequent commentator on Middle East issues. He has taken positions against both Arab extremism and Israeli army abuses. He was questioned by the FBI after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Government officials in Israel made no announcement about Abdelkarim’s release, and a spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles said he could not confirm it.

Abdelkarim’s trip was taken partly on behalf of Kinder-USA. The group’s executive director, who also belongs to the Holy Land Foundation, was detained for eight days this month in Israel.

``I don’t want him to go back,″ said Abdelkarim’s wife, Wijdan, whose parents remain in Palestinian territories. ``We just want him here with his family. The last two weeks have just been miserable.″

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