THE rector of Glasgow University has spoken out about how he was denied entry into Germany to give a witness statement working in hospitals in Gaza.

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a British-Palestinian medic and recently appointed Glasgow University rector, has spoken out against Germany for refusing him entry and claimed he could have been jailed.

Dr Abu-Sittah is a world-leading expert on children and war-injured patients.

He was due to give a witness statement in Berlin last week about his time working as a doctor in hospitals in Gaza in the immediate wake of the October 7 attacks on Israel.

The Palestinian doctor spoke to the Middle East Eye to recall his detention at the airport, and said Germany were “accomplice to the genocidal war” and trying to “bury evidence”.

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He said: “My name is Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah.

“I have just returned from Germany where I had been prevented from entering the country for attending a conference in Germany to give evidence on the war in Gaza and my witness statement as a doctor working in its hospitals.

“This morning at 10.00 I landed in Berlin to attend a conference on Palestine where I had been asked along with many others in the UK, the United States and in Europe, to give my evidence of the 43 days that I had seen in the hospitals in Gaza, working in both Shifa and al-Ahil hospital.

“Upon arrival, I was stopped at the passport office.

“I was then escorted down to the basement of the airport, where I was questioned for three and a half hours.

“At the end of three and a half hours, I was told that I will not be allowed to enter German soil, and that this ban will last the whole of April. And not just that.

“That if I were to try, to link up by Zoom or FaceTime with the conference, even if I was outside Germany, or I were to send a video of my lecture to the conference in Berlin, that would constitute a breach of German law and that I would endanger myself to having a fine or even up to a year of prison.

“I then was asked at the end to book a flight back to the UK. My passport was taken away from me and then I only got my passport back as I was boarding the plane.”

The pro-Palestine conference which Abu-Sittah was supposed to speak at was ended early by the German police.

It was reported by PA that the police pulled the plug on the event after a person who is banned from political activity in Germany appeared on a livestream.

The police would not confirm the identity of the person. Organisers took to Twitter/X to say that the conference was “banned by the police without reason.”

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Abu-Sittah also spoke about how Germany was trying to silence witnesses, and that his detention and refusal to be allowed to speak at the conference was setting a dangerous precedent.

He said: “As Germany is defending itself against the Nicaraguan charges that it is an accomplice to the genocidal war as described by the International Court of Justice this is exactly what accomplices to a crime do.

“They bury the evidence, and they silence, or harass, or intimidate the witnesses.

“And so, as members of a gang that has committed a heinous crime, Germany’s doing its bit in that crime, which is to ensure that there is complete impunity and so that the genocide can continue uninterrupted.

“The Jewish intellectual Hannah Arendt, in the first lecture that she gave in Germany in 1958 after the Second World War, she said: ‘We humanise what is going on in the world and in ourselves by speaking of it and in the course of speaking of it, we learn to be human.

‘There is so much peril before us to speak of it in earnest, to understand the causes and the alternative is to practice our humanity.’

“And this crackdown on free speech is a dangerous precedent because what is happening in Gaza is a dangerous precedent.

“We are watching the first genocide unfold in the 21 first century and for Germany to become implicated as an accomplice in silencing the witnesses of this genocide does not bode well for the rest of the century.”

Abu-Sittah has had an extensive career in reconstructive surgery and helping those who have been wounded by war.

He has worked in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, and Beirut.

His experience working as a medic during Israel’s siege in Gaza saw him cited in South Africa’s genocide case at the (ICJ).

The National:

His quote from the ICJ submission reads: “There was a girl with just her whole body covered in shrapnel. She was nine. I ended up having to change and clean these wounds with no anaesthetic and no analgesic. I managed to find some intravenous paracetamol to give her … her dad was crying, I was crying, and the poor child was screaming …”

He is also an expert in children’s health, and trained at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London. He has set up a program providing free cleft care for refugee children.

Both of Abu-Sittah's parents are Palestinians, and he has frequently worked in Gaza over the last 25 years. He says he views his work in Gaza as “an extension of my Palestinian identity”.

The University of Glasgow and The German Embassy have both been approached for comment.