Syrian fugitive repatriated to Romania over Iraq kidnappings

A fugitive Syrian-born businessman sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering the kidnap of three journalists in Iraq returned to Romania Friday, following an "unauthorised" Romanian operation abroad, President Traian Basescu said.

"Romania carried out an unauthorised operation on the territory of another state", Basescu said refusing to name the country from where Omar Hayssam was repatriated.

The businessman, who also has Romanian citizenship, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison in 2008 for "terrorist acts" after ordering the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad in 2005.

The reporters were held captive for 55 days before being released.

Hayssam was held in Romania in 2005 but was released on health grounds a year later and fled to Syria, where he was reportedly detained.

Last year, Romania ratified an extradition treaty with Syria.

"I do not confirm that Omar Hayssam was taken from Syria (...) I do not confirm that he was repatriated based on an extradition agreement," Basescu said without giving further details.

Separately, Hayssam was also sentenced to 16 years in jail for fraud in 2012, and to two years for fleeing the country.