An Israeli man who was held in jail in Greece for two weeks, due to what Israel says was a mistake, told Hebrew media Wednesday about the “appalling and inhumane conditions” he endured behind bars before being released earlier in the day.
Dudi Ashkenazi described the vermin-infested, urine-soaked jail to Hebrew media outlets after a Greek court released him but ordered that he remain on the island of Rhodes until a final decision is made.
Ashkenazi, 52, was vacationing in Greece when he was arrested two weeks ago on an Interpol warrant for a dual Israeli-Azerbaijani citizen also named Dudi Ashkenazi, who allegedly trafficked drugs between Peru and Russia in 2012. He was held on the Greek island of Kos until the court hearing that granted his partial release. He is now staying at a hotel with his wife and sister.
Ashkenazi was arrested as soon as he arrived in Greece and taken away from his wife for questioning.
He told Channel 13 news that when he was first arrested, he thought it was just “a crazy mistake.”
Police quizzed him about being in Peru and he admitted that he had been there 15 years ago, but reassured them he had never been arrested.
When they took his fingerprints, “I understood this was not a good situation,” he said.
He was taken to the jailhouse and with him, in a confined space, were refugees from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank’s Ramallah, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Armenia and Albania.
“Some of the people from Gaza who didn’t like the idea that I am Israeli” tried to ruin his relations with inmates he befriended, “but overall they kept their distance and it was okay,” Ashkenazi said.
Speaking to the Walla news site, he talked about the state of the prison.
“There were appalling and inhumane conditions,” he said and described how his sandals had stuck to the floor because it was so filthy.
“And then you see cockroaches moving between your legs, and rats running around, mosquitos flying around and bothering you all the time, and the stench of sewage, urine and feces in the air.”
He said he was initially kept in a narrow corridor with only a mattress that smelled of urine, laid out in a niche in the wall, as a bed.
“There were a lot of refugees who apparently urinated out of fear,” he recalled.
His nights were spent thinking about how he could prove his innocence and how he could avoid being extradited to Peru, he said.
But, he said, hardest of all was being separated from his wife.
“I was worried about Racheli, my wife, who I knew was outside,” he said.
Speaking about his emotions as left detention, he told Walla: “I learned the hard way that there is no greater feeling in the world.”
Ashkenazi said he is now hoping he will soon be fully released and able to return home to his family.
“I want to hug them and assure them that I will never leave them again,” he said.
He also said he intends to tear up his passport.
“I will never leave Israel again. I told my wife I am not prepared to take a risk that, God forbid, something like this could happen again in the future.”
Ashkenazi told the media that he had lost his passport in 2002 and that it was that document that somehow came into the possession of the wanted man, who apparently used it to forge an Azerbaijani passport. Ashkenazi does not have Azerbaijani citizenship.
The release from jail came after his attorney Nir Yaslovitzh said on Friday that he’d presented documents to Greek Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras and Attorney General Vasilias Milanunis that proved Ashkenazi is not the suspect wanted by Interpol and police in Peru.
Ashkenazi, his family and the Israeli government maintain that he did not commit the crimes. He has said that he had been celebrating his daughter’s bat mitzvah at the time of the alleged crimes in 2012 and was not in Peru, Channel 12 news reported last week.
At a hearing in Rhodes last Monday, Greek prosecutors did not explicitly reject Ashkenazi’s claim, but said they wanted to investigate further, the Ynet news site said at the time.
That same day, the Foreign Ministry contacted the Greek foreign ministry after the photo attached to the warrant was released, saying his arrest was likely a result of misidentification.
Yaslovitzh has reportedly sent Greek officials an additional corroborative letter from the Foreign Ministry incorporating updated information from Israeli authorities and Interpol.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is also the foreign minister, spoke with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias last Wednesday and requested Ashkenazi’s immediate release.