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Detained Australian activist: takeover of Gaza Freedom Boats was violent and dangerous
From Vivienne Porzsolt
vporzsolt@gmail.com
Free Gaza Movement, Australia

Contrary to Israeli claims that the takeover of the two Freedom boats Tahrir and MV Saoirse by the Israeli navy was peaceful, organisers of this latest Freedom Wave to Gaza say it was aggressive and dangerous. The two boats were violently intercepted in international waters, says Michael Coleman, an Australian aboard the Tahrir, who is currently imprisoned in Israel.

Organisers in Sydney are outraged, saying Israeli forces water-cannoned, tasered, beat and shackled activists on the Canadian ship Tahrir who were seeking to challenge Israel�s illegal naval blockade of Gaza.


Dr Fintan Lane of the Irish boat MV Saoirse reportedly said: `The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse.`


Michael Coleman was finally able to speak for just over a minute to his father John Coleman on Sunday after nearly 40 hours in Israeli detention.


Michael told his father: `We were intercepted in international waters, illegally boarded by about 30 armed Israeli troops and forcibly taken to Israel against our expressed will. We were assaulted and thrown around. I had my arm twisted hard up my back. One activist was tasered.`


`We have been hand-cuffed and shackled, sleep-deprived, with our watches impounded and the clock in the prison set to the wrong time. This is all designed to disorient and demoralise us. But our spirits are high. We are political prisoners, defending the rights of Palestinians. We have refused to sign any statement that we came illegally to Israel. We were headed for Gaza, not Israel. We were forcibly, violently and illegally taken to Israel against our will,` he said.


Many goodwill messages for Michael have been received. Australian journalist, writer and film-maker, John Pilger wrote: `Be assured the great majority of humanity is with you in spirit; �All power to you.`


Australian writer and journalist Antony Loewenstein wrote: `The silence of the political and media elites over both Michael`s imprisonment and the suffering of the Gazan people proves how Zionist ideology has corrupted our democratic process.`


Spokesperson Vivienne Porzsolt says: `We are calling for the immediate release of Michael and the other brave activists. The maltreatment of international peace activists is unacceptable but pales in comparison with the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. Just last week 9 Palestinians were killed and 2 more yesterday.`

`Initiatives like the Freedom Waves would be unnecessary if Israel would finally end this illegal blockade. Western governments, including Australia, must hold Israel accountable for its defiance of international law,` said Ms Porzsolt. �Israel�s impunity must stop.�


END


For more information, contact:

Vivienne Porzsolt 0411 366 295

Kate Ausburn 0423 914 543

James Godfrey 0424 340 630


Website: http://freegazaoz.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GazaAustralia


================================================================================

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday 5 November 7:15am



ISRAELI OCCUPATION FORCES ILLEGALLY BOARD FREEDOM WAVES BOATS TO GAZA: AUSTRALIAN DETAINED



All communication was cut late last night to Freedom Waves boats Tahrir and MV Saoirse as they were sailing in international waters, approximately 50 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.



The Tahrir was carrying 12 crew and passengers, including Australian Michael Coleman, whilst the Saoirse had 15 people on board. Earlier this morning we contacted DFAT who advised that it will contact the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.


Free Gaza Australia Spokesperson Kate Ausburn said `We are still awaiting a response to earlier communication to Australia�s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. When will Kevin or Julia pick up the phone to Netanyahu? Or maybe they are content that Israel has �stopped the boats�?`



An hour earlier, two naval vessels of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were sighted rapidly approaching and then made radio contact. On board the Tahrir, Ehab Latoyef from the organising committee in Canada responded to the radio requests for the Tahrir`s final destination with �the conscience of humanity� and when the question was repeated, �the betterment of mankind�.



An IOF spokesperson has stated that the boats were taken to the port of Ashdod, and that Israeli police have taken the passengers into custody. Although the IOF spokesperson claimed they took �every precaution to ensure the safety of the activists,� Freedom Waves to Gaza organisers have been unable to communicate with the ships since soon after Israeli warships approached the vessels.



U.S. Coordinator Jane Hirschmann commented, �Had the passengers been permitted to proceed to Gaza rather than being stopped on the high seas by armed force, there would have been no threat to their safety. The IOF`s statement is like the mugger promising to escort his victim home safely.�



Free Gaza Australia calls on the Australian Government to immediately demand that the Israeli government condemn this act of piracy by the Israeli government and not harm any passengers aboard the Tahrir or its sister ship MV Saoirse.



The Tahrir and the MV Saoirse have every legal right to proceed to Gaza unimpeded. A group of five United Nations Special Rapporteurs for human rights on 13 September 2011 declared �the blockade of Gaza continues to violate international law�.



The UN Human Rights Council Inquiry Report of September 2010 concluded that the blockade is illegal and Israeli policies in Gaza are a form of collective punishment. There is no legal justification for stopping or in any way impeding the passage of the totally peaceful Freedom Waves boats from the international solidarity movement with Palestinian people.



End



For more information, contact:

Vivienne Porzsolt 0411 366 295 Kate Ausburn 0423 914 543



Websites: www.tahrir.ca freegazaoz.org
Email: freegazaaustralia@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GazaAustralia
Twitter: @GFFAusGroup



Michael Coleman in protective gear while on board Tahrir during the morning of Friday 4 November:

http://freegazaoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/michaelontahrirfriday.jpg



Michael Coleman from Sydney with the Tahrir as it prepared to leave port for Gaza.

http://freegazaoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/michaelcolemantahrir2.jpg



Report from Democracy Now:

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/4/exclusive_video_from_gaza_flotilla_as



Report from Press TV:

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