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The Examiner
Thursday, 7 March, 2002

Plea For Dad's Life

By David Kiefer
Of The Examiner Staff

Publication date: 03/07/2002

San Jose State University student Allaedin Ezzedin is making a plea for his father's life. The American majoring in computer engineering knows time is growing short.

His father, Abdallah Ahmed Ezzedin, has been sentenced to death, after having been beaten and tortured in a Libyan prison since his arrest nearly four years ago.

With no representation, Abdallah has been tried as an enemy of the state or, more specifically, of Muammar Qaddafi.

Abdallah's crime: Providing humanitarian aid to his countrymen.

The execution, most likely a nationally-televised hanging, could take place today, tomorrow, or a year from now -- his fate hinges on the mood of Qaddafi, Libya's dictator.

The family has, reluctantly, made their case public. Though they fear retaliation for speaking out, they feel there are no options.

"That's the only hope we have, to raise our voice and tell our story," Allaedin said. "Maybe people can write to their congressman, or President Bush. Maybe Qaddafi will listen to them."

Teacher gets detained

Abdallah, a nuclear engineering professor, was teaching at the University of Tripoli on June 6, 1998, when members of Qaddafi's revolutionary guard entered the classroom and seized him during a purge of 152 of the country's brightest men.

For nearly two years, Abdallah's wife and three children received no word of his fate.

"We didn't know if he was alive or dead," Allaedin said.

Finally, the family received a letter informing them that Abdallah was alive. And, in early February, his wife was permitted to visit him in prison. He was scared, sitting in a tiny cell, but still the same man, composed and dignified.

"Take care of the children," he told her.

The government's apparent relaxation instilled hope that Abdallah would be released. The date of the Celebration of Sacrifice, Islam's most important feast, was Feb. 23, a time of amnesty in the Islamic culture.

"Everyone expected that was going to happen," said a friend of Abdallah's who asked not to be identified.

A week before the feast, the family did indeed receive news, but not the news it hoped for.

Allaedin received a phone call at 3 a.m. from his mother and could sense her grief.

"How bad is it?" he asked. "Another 10 years?" "Worse," she responded.

"Another 15 years?"

Allaedin heard his sister crying in the background. That's when he knew his father would die, like so many others.

Going to America, going back

Abdallah was the kind of man Qaddafi used to be proud of.

Gaddafi once encouraged its best students to go to America and earn advanced degrees. Abdallah went to Iowa State University in Ames, where Allaedin, his first child, was born, and was there from 1975 to 1983 earning his master's and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.

He loved to play sports, including pickup basketball, soccer and volleyball. He was a regular at Iowa State football and basketball games, and became a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. His favorite player was star running back Tony Dorsett.

Even after moving back to Libya, Abdallah remained a fan. He bought a satellite dish to follow his favorite teams, and twice a week took Allaedin to a Tripoli school playground to shoot baskets.

"Abdallah is one of those people that when you meet him, you never forget his personality," said his friend. "He's very kind and compassionate, always smiling."

During a pickup soccer match at Iowa State, the friend confided that he was to get married and hoped to do it soon. Abdallah lifted him with a hug and volunteered to take care of all the arrangements.

Abdallah contacted the guests, his wife prepared the cake, and he even called the police to alert them to the Muslim tradition of a parade after the wedding. The police were happy to help.

It was quite a sight in Ames, to see a police car, with sirens on and lights flashing, leading a 50-car Muslim wedding parade down a busy street.

Abdallah was impressed by the American commitment to social service, of helping fellow citizens, and he returned to Libya with that mentality.

It led to his involvement in the underground Libyan Islamic Group, a service organization. With so many families in need, Abdallah helped to provide families with money, food, or medicine.

"There was no government plan to deal with these problems," the friend said. "As they started to do this more and more, it appealed to people. But this contradicts what the Green book says, and for that reason, Qaddafi considered them enemies."

Some of the 152 have been given life terms. Some were released. Abdallah, however, may have assured his fate by becoming the liaison between prisoners and the authorities. He is, in effect, their leader -- a man willing to put his life on the line.

The trial process and final sentencing were closed. Attorneys were barred from the proceedings. Amnesty International was denied access and called the sentencing "a travesty of justice." They have called on Libyan authorities to withdraw the death sentences of Abdullah and colleague Salem Abu Hanak.

Allaedin's friends in San Jose State's Muslim Student Association will begin a letter-writing campaign to politicians. He is hoping others will hear his father's story and feel compelled to write too.

"My father and I were very close," Allaedin said. "I miss him so much."

"I know American people can do something if they hear my story. I am their brother, we are all American."

E-mail David Kiefer at dkiefer@sfexaminer.com


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