News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Syrian doctor expelled from Hungary for allegedly supporting Hamas

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 10 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1002
  1. Carl Kovac
  1. Budapest

    A Syrian doctor was summarily expelled from Hungary late last month after the National Security Office said that he had illegally made a contribution to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

    The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a member of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, plans to contest the expulsion, contending that Dr Kinan Haddad, 31, a surgeon on the staff at the Pécs Medical University Clinic, was not afforded due process of law and that the action was taken without a proper investigation.

    Mr Ferenc Kôszeg, executive director of the committee, said the expulsion “was against basic humanitarian principles. Unfortunately, this is not so unusual. The arbitrary expulsion of aliens has been going on for a long time.”

    In a telephone interview from Damascus with the Hungarian national newspaper Népszabadság Dr Haddad said that he decided to make a contribution after watching a plea on satellite television for donations to help alleviate the plight of Palestinian orphans and widows.

    He instructed his bank to transfer 105 000 forints ($300; £480; €430), a month's salary, to an account number that had been displayed on the TV screen. The number turned out to be on an international list of accounts suspected of belonging to terrorist groups and their cover organisations, and the bank notified the National Security Office.

    Shortly thereafter the Interior Ministry's Immigration and Citizenship Office summoned Dr Haddad, notified him that the account number was linked to Hamas, and told him he could not return for 10 years.

    Dr Haddad departed for Syria on 25 April. His Hungarian wife, a medical student, was unable to accompany him.

    Dr Haddad said the immigration authorities refused to consider his explanation that he was unaware that the account number was connected with a terrorist organisation and that he only wanted to help people in need.

    Sceptics said that if Dr Haddad had just wanted to help Palestinian widows and orphans in Palestine he could have made a donation through the International Red Cross.

    Mr András Tóth, state secretary for national security services, said that the authorities handled the case “in accord with procedures practised by other countries fighting terrorism.”

    Mr István Diczig, Dr Haddad's lawyer, filed appeals with several government agencies but had received no replies by late last week.

    Dr Haddad qualified at the Pécs Medical University in 2002 and has been working at its clinic ever since. His supervisors and colleagues described him as an honest, organised, dedicated professional and reported that he often said he had left the Middle East to escape the violence there. One of his supervisors, Dr Lajos Bognár, said Dr Haddad “was the victim of a grave mistake.”