A sentence of 10 years in prison has been issued by the Lebanese military court against Lebanese-born Dr. Jamal Rifi for allegedly collaborating with the Israeli state and “being a traitor” and was just sentenced in absentia.
“I wasn’t aware of the court case taking place, I wasn’t given any chance to represent my point of view,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
Known as a philanthropist in Sydney, Dr. Rifi has been helping sick Palestinian children get medical treatment in Israeli hospitals, which they couldn’t receive otherwise.
“We have Palestinian volunteers who pick up the patient and their carer — Mum, grandmother — and they take them from their home to the checkpoints or the border,” Dr. Rifi explained to ABC News, “they cross the checkpoint or border, and they will be picked up by an Israel volunteer who will take them to the hospital.”
His efforts to lend support to the people in Palestine, through a project called Rozana, also include facilitating the medical training of Palestinian doctors at Israeli hospitals.
Rifi came to know about Project Rozana from former New South Wales (NSW) governor Dame Marie Bashir.
He then went doing his own investigation, consulting with his Lebanese Muslim community, and contacting people in Palestine to further inquire about Project Rozana, before he decided to join in, he shared with local media in NSW.
A prominent leader in the Lebanese Muslim community in Sydney, Dr. Jamal Rifi is also known for his efforts to counter the radicalization by ISIS of young Muslims in his city.
In 2010, he was declared “Australian of the Year” by The Australian newspaper.
In 2015, he was named “Australian Father of the Year.”
The Univesity of Canberra awarded him an honorary doctorate that same year, and, in 2017, he was honored with the Medal of the Order of Australia.
In parallel, his stance against ISIS and his humanitarian work for Palestinians via Project Rozana have brought upon him harsh criticism, death threats, and accusations of being a Zionist by radicals “for years,” according to him.
In 2014, a tweet by a locally declared terrorist Mohamed Elomar circulated online inciting people in exchange for money to intimidate Dr. Rifi and his family.
Death threats and intimidation haven’t ceased since then, according to Dr. Rifi to local media, which prompted him in 2019 to seek police intervention.
In an interview with ABC News, Dr. Rifi said that Lebanon’s sentence against him “is now impacting his important work as a doctor protecting the Lebanese community in Sidney from the ravages of COVID.”
Dr. Rifi has been relentlessly working to vaccinate as many people as possible, having vaccinated so far over 9000 of his community, and campaigning to encourage people to get their vaccines.
About the sentence against him, Dr. Rifi blamed Hezbollah‘s control on the Lebanese government.
He said to ABC News, “This is a reflection of the Lebanese corrupt system, which failed to protect their own citizens in Lebanon and now they are chasing expatriates outside of Lebanon for doing a good deed, for speaking the truth, and for standing our ground by exposing their failures.”
However, it appears that there is more to this story than chasing after an expat miles away across the ocean and defaming him and crippling his work.
Dr. Jamal Rifi is the brother of none other than the Lebanese former Justice Minister and former Major General of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Ashraf Rifi who has been vocal against Hezbollah.
On Monday, Ashraf Rifi called his brother to inform him about the sentence, which trial Dr. Rifi knew nothing about.
“I was informed by my brother that a journalist close to Hezbollah in Lebanon made an announcement that the Lebanese military tribunal sentenced me to 10 years’ imprisonment for being a collaborator and a traitor with the enemy,” he told ABC News.
Dr. Jamal Rifi believes that this sentence primarily targets his brother in a smearing campaign for being “one of the loudest voices against Hezbollah [that is] doing everything as per [its] master, Iran.”
General Ashraf Rifi had voiced out back in April that the assassination of political activist Lokman Slim is a “prime act of terrorism,” and that “all the clues point to Hezbollah.”
Dr. Jamal Rifi has vowed to fight the sentence and clear his name so he can continue his important work as a doctor for his community and in helping the people of Palestine get the medical treatment they need.
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