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Israeli detained by Greece after being mistaken for drug trafficker returns home

Dudi Ashkenazi was released from detention in early July but was unable to leave Greece until receiving clearance from Peru, which issued the international warrant for his arrest

Dudi Ashkenazi, right, who was arrested and held for weeks in Greece, is welcomed by family and friends as he arrives at the Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, on July 30, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Dudi Ashkenazi, right, who was arrested and held for weeks in Greece, is welcomed by family and friends as he arrives at the Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, on July 30, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

An Israeli detained in Greece since late June after being mistaken for a wanted drug-trafficker arrived back in Israel on Saturday.

“I got the release papers and they told me ‘go,’ so I went, I got on the first plane and I fled,” a smiling Dudi Ashkenazitold reports on his arrival back in Israel.

Ashkenazi was arrested on an Interpol warrant for a dual Israeli-Azerbaijani citizen with the same name who allegedly trafficked drugs between Peru and Russia in 2012. Ashkenazi was imprisoned for two weeks while awaiting trial but was ultimately released on July 5 following an emergency hearing, but was unable to leave until receiving official clearance from Peru, which had issued the warrant.

His return came a day after Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s office said he had finally been cleared by Greek authorities.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said of his ordeal.

“Even now when I came to passport control, even though I was confident and had the authorization to leave, he looked at me several times and asked if I was the ‘detained Israeli.’ I think I lost several years of my life before he said ‘OK, go,'”

Ashkenazi said his biggest fear during his time in Greece was that Peru would not agree to his release. “Who knows what would have happened,” he said.

Dudi Ashkenazi, who was arrested and held for weeks in Greece, is welcomed by family and friends as he arrives at the Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, on July 30, 2022. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Sa’ar had previously spoken to Greek Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras and had asked for his help clearing Ashkenazi’s name two weeks ago, his office said.

Ashkenazi was released after his lawyer traveled to Greece and presented Tsiaras and Greek Attorney General Vasilias Milanunis with various official documents, including from the Israel Police.

Convinced by the documents, they scheduled an emergency hearing for the following Monday; Ashkenazi was released from detention immediately after the hearing.

Israeli officials advocated for his release while he was imprisoned. In late June, the police told Interpol they believe Greece had arrested the wrong man after discovering that the warrant contains the identification number of another individual with the same name, and the Foreign Ministry contacted its Greek counterpart after the photo attached to the warrant was released, saying his arrest was likely a result of misidentification.

Ashkenazi said that he was celebrating his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah at the time of the alleged drug trafficking, and said that he did not have Azerbaijani citizenship, which Azerbaijani authorities confirmed, Ynet reported.

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