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Michael D Higgins says previous support for Ezra Nawi was a "human rights issue"

Higgins and Senator Mark Daly “did not know” of Norris ex-partner’s rape conviction when they backed David Norris in a 2009 Oireachtas Joint Committee motion for support of Nawi in Israeli defence forces’ attack claim.

Michael D Higgins and Mark Daly
Michael D Higgins and Mark Daly
Image: Photocall Ireland

MICHAEL D HIGGINS, Labour’s presidential nominee, has said that he seconded a motion in support of David Norris’s former partner Ezra Nawi at an Oireachtas joint committee purely on “a human rights issue”.

Senator David Norris put forward a motion on 20 May 2009 that a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs “expresses concern at the trial of Ezra Yizhak Nawi and the dangerous precedent that may be set”. The trial related to was one in which Ezra Nawi was charged with attacking Israeli security forces just outside Hebron.

Norris claimed that Nawi’s work at the demonstration was non-violent and that he was supported by Rabbis for Human Rights and another human rights group called Ta’ayush and Bethsalem. He argued that Nawi was being framed: “

(The full motion can be read at this Oireachtas debates page>)

The motion to support Ezra Nawi was seconded by Michael D Higgins and also supported by Senator Mark Daly. Today, both men told that they had been unaware at the time of Nawi’s previous conviction for statutory rape.

Higgins said that he had no knowledge of Nawi’s statutory rape conviction – “Absolutely not” – but he said that had lent his support because it was a “human rights incident”. He said:

Several times in the Committee we would have conferred on cases like this in which a person’s human rights were at issue.

I have worked for many years on human rights issues, as has David Norris, and he and I have raised several human rights cases together. This was one of them.

Senator Mark Daly, when asked if he would still have supported Nawi in that particular case had he known of his earlier conviction, told

You’d always like to have the full facts in the case of supporting someone.

As detailed in his Joint Committee statement, Daly said he met Ezra Nawi when he acted as the senator’s guide around Irish-funded aid projects near Hebron. He had told the Joint Committee that he had experienced verbal abuse hurled at Nawi and that “No doubt, they (the Israeli defence forces) are targeting him because he is a thorn in their side”.

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Following the motion, the Joint Committee wrote to the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland to express its concerns about Ezra’s arrest.

A letter David Norris wrote on Seanad-headed paper asking for clemency for Ezra Nawi after his conviction for statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy has led to resignations among his presidential campaign staff. It has also thrown doubt over his chances of getting nominated to run for the presidency with three Oireachtas members withdrawing their earlier pledges to support him.

Senator Norris is to make a statement outside his home and campaign HQ on North Great George’s Street at 3pm.

Norris to break silence on presidential campaign today>

As three TDs withdraw their backing who’s supporting Norris now?>

Norris withdraws from presenting spot on TV3′s Vincent Browne show>

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