Brazil deports Hamas 'operative' and family

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil has deported a Palestinian man and his family after Brazilian federal police were alerted by the United States that a "Hamas operative" was traveling to the South American country, Brazilian authorities said on Monday.

Muslim Abuumar along with his pregnant wife, son and mother-in-law, were detained on Friday entering the country at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos airport and put on a Qatar Airways flight back to Doha two days later, police sources told Reuters.

"The request came from the U.S. Department of State," a senior federal police officer said. "It was proven before a judge that (Abuumar) was deeply involved with Hamas," he said.

A federal judge in Sao Paulo stopped the deportation on Saturday to request information from the police, which when provided led her to approve deporting Abuumar and his family.

Judge Milenna da Cunha, in her decision seen by Reuters, said Brazilian federal police received an alert via the U.S. embassy that "a Hamas operative, Muslim Abuumar" would be arriving in Brazil from Kuala Lumpur.

According to an injunction filed by Abuumar's lawyer, Bruno Henrique de Moura, the Palestinian family was detained by police on entry at Guarulhos airport without a warrant. It said they were coming to visit his brother who lives in Brazil.

Brazilian police sources, however, said Abuumar was not coming for a visit but to stay in Brazil and become a spokesman for Hamas. Once source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the large amount of luggage he brought with his family showed he was planning to stay longer.

Abuumar, 37, is executive director of the Asia Middle East Center, and his wife is Malaysian and his children Malaysian-born, the injunction filed by his lawyer said.

A police source said Abuumar had first flown to Brazil last year, arriving on Jan. 1, the day leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn into office for a new term.

Lula defends a two-state solution for the Palestinian conflict and has condemned the Israeli military response in Gaza to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has had a representative in Brasilia since Brazil recognized Palestine in 1975, and Lula's government allowed a Palestinian embassy to be built in the Brazilian capital in 2010 at the end of his second term as president.

Palestinian ambassador in Brasilia, Ibrahim Al Zeben, said nobody officially contacted the embassy about Abuumar. "We trust Brazilian policy," he said.

Moura said Brazilian police "simply agreed to a U.S. request that was politically-motivated" and based on Abuumar's name appearing on the U.S. government's terrorist watch list.

"The United States uses this list to make life difficult for pro-Palestinian activists," Moura said.

Judge Cunha in her ruling approving the deportation cited Abuumar's social media postings of him meeting in Doha with Ismail Haniyeh, a chief political leader of Hamas.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Bill Berkrot)