Australian faces 2 months incarceration in Israel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 1pm, Wednesday 9 November 2011

Yesterday, 15 activists detained without charge in Israel came before a judge and were told they could be held for up to 2 months. This comes as eye-witness reports reveal that last Friday, Australian Michael Coleman, 35, was subjected to “extreme violence” by Israeli military when the boat bound for Gaza that he was travelling on was boarded by the Israeli navy, says Democracy Now correspondent Jihan Hafiz. Hafiz was aboard the Canadian boat Tahrir and was imprisoned along with the international peace delegates.

Hafiz told Democracy Now on Tuesday 8 November, that Israeli commandos “were very forceful with Michael Coleman. They had guns to his back, as well as to his head, as they frisked him. And they even had lasers pointed at his chest.” Naturally, this terrified everyone on board, including the journalists, as they feared for their lives.

The Israeli military forcibly commandeered the boats Tahrir and MV Saoirse that Michael and other journalists and activists were travelling on as part of the Freedom Waves initiative and redirected them to Ashdod port in Israel. Hafiz said that Michael was the “most defiant” of all those on board repeatedly telling Israeli military: “You kidnapped us.

You’re pirates. You violated international law. You’re lawless.”

Hafiz also revealed that Israeli authorities ordered her and others not to talk about “anything negative or political” during their brief phone calls to home from Israeli detention. This censorship explains why these details are only just coming out.

A spokesperson for Free Gaza Australia, Kate Ausburn, said: “These are very concerning eye-witness revelations. We demand that Prime Minister Gillard and Foreign Minister  Rudd make urgent representations to the Israeli government condemning the violence that Michael has been subjected to and to secure Michael’s immediate and unconditional release from detention where he is continuing to be held against his will as a political prisoner.”

“The sort of violence and aggression that Michael and the other peace activists and journalists have been subjected to by the Israeli authorities is what Palestinians experience every day. Even when all of the Freedom Waves activists are released, the people of Palestinian remain occupied.”

“We echo the demand of the political prisoners from Givon prison that they have the immediate right of association with each other, they have access to reading and writing materials and unfettered communication with the outside world.”

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the inaction of Gillard and Rudd. In  its failure to speak out against Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Australian Government is condoning Israel’s disregard for the human rights of the citizens of Gaza and giving it impunity for its refusal to comply with its international obligations. It is this silence that compels citizens of good conscience, like Michael, to act where our Government has so consistently failed to do so.”

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