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Media Releases

Australian Michael Coleman detained in Israel arrives home TODAY!

For Immediate Release – Friday, 11 November, 2011 (8am)

Australian detained in Israel arriving home today

Despite a threat from an Israeli judge that they could face two months in prison, Freedom Waves to Gaza activist Michael Coleman has been released and deported back to Australia. 14 Irish delegates remain in detention.

ARRIVAL

What: Michael Coleman will arrive in Sydney after 5 days in an Israeli prison, following their abduction from international waters en route to Gaza to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade.

When: Media Conference 4.30pm, Friday, 11 November, 2011. 

Where:  Sydney DOMESTIC airport (Terminal 2). Arrivals area, ground floor.

 
What: Photo opportunity as Michael’s family, friends and supporters welcome him back from his journey. Michael will briefly comment on his experience on Freedom Waves to Gaza aboard the Canadian boat Tahrir and his time in Israeli prison.

Background: The reason why Michael and the other international peace activists who were detained undertook this journey in the first place was to show solidarity with the ordinary people of Gaza who have lost their basic freedoms as a result of a blockade imposed by the military

forces of Israel, and to take action that would contribute to the end of that blockade.

Freedom Waves was never intended to focus attention on the 27 people aboard the MVSaoirse and the Tahrir, but on the 1.6 million people of Gaza – half of whom are children under the age of 16 – who continue to suffer collective punishment at the hands of the Israeli military. While Australian delegate Michael and international citizens were languishing in prison in Israel for the “crime” of coming to their aid, the population of Gaza continues to languish in what is, in effect, the world’s largest open air prison.

This assault on this the latest of eleven attempts to break the blockade of Gaza via the sea demonstrates once again that Israel is able to act with impunity when it comes to the welfare of the Palestinian people and anyone trying to help them. It is because of the continuing inaction of governments around the world, including the Australian Government, that ordinary people feel compelled to act.

Michael is returning today and will be available for press interviews upon arrival atSydney DOMESTIC airport (Terminal 2).

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Media Releases

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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Media Releases

Kevin Rudd fails in duty to Australian Political Prisoner in Israel

For Immediate Release, Tuesday, 8 November 2011, 4:30pm

Free Gaza Australia organisers ask where is Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd?

Last Friday 4 November Australian citizen and Sydney based youth worker Michael Coleman, 35, was assaulted and illegally detained by Israeli

military. Michael was on board the Canadian boat Tahrir with other international peace activists, bound for Gaza when it was violently intercepted by the Israeli military in international waters. Despite Michael’s ongoing imprisonment in Israel’s Givon prison, there has to date been no response from the Foreign Minister or his staff to this violence against an Australian citizen.

In a phone call to Minister Rudd’s office earlier today, a staff member said that government representatives have corresponded with Michael and his family to see that he is “OK”. The staff member in Minister Rudd’s office noted that she believed that the conditions Michael is being kept in are “above board” and “up to standard”.

This is in stark contrast to Michael’s statements via a call with his father on Sunday evening: “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.”

Spokesperson for Free Gaza Australia, Vivienne Porzsolt, says: “Initiatives like the Freedom Waves would not be needed if there was no illegal blockade by Israel. Western Governments, including Australia, must hold Israel accountable for its defiance of international law.”

With several Canadians still languishing alongside Michael in an Israeli prison, Canadian organisers are demanding their Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird step down for failing to do his job.

Wendy Goldsmith, an organiser with the Canadian Boat to Gaza said: “Our friends have been assaulted, tasered, beaten, kidnapped, robbed, and imprisoned and we have now learned that the Department of Foreign Affairs is telling them they have to pay for their deportation flight.”

Australian organisers are waiting to hear if Israel will demand that Michael pay for deportation from Israel where he was taken violently against his will.

Both the Canadian and Australian Foreign Ministers have failed to seek the immediate release of their citizens who have been political prisoners of Israel since Friday. Organisers see this as an abdication of the Government’s obligation to ensure the safety of its citizens and to hold Israel to account over crimes it commits against peaceful unarmed civilians and the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza on a daily basis.

An open letter has been sent to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Rudd today asking for the Australian Government to urgently address its ongoing inaction.

The letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard can be found at: http://freegazaoz.org/open-letter-to-prime-minister-julia-gillard/

For more details contact:
James 0424 340 630

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Media Releases

Israeli takeover of freedom boats violent and dangerous

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday 7 November, 12pm

ISRAELI TAKEOVER OF FREEDOM BOATS VIOLENT AND DANGEROUS

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.”

 

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Media Releases

Piracy and Illegal Detention: Australian man remains imprisoned in Israel

Media Release, Sunday 6 November, 2011, 12.45pm

PIRACY AND ILLEGAL DETENTION: AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT MUST ACT NOW AGAINST ISRAEL

Freedom Waves to Gaza organisers are being denied direct communication with the delegates from both the Tahrir and M.V. Saoirse, hijacked in international waters on Friday evening, Australian EST. Organisers demand that the Israeli government immediately free the remaining people they have kidnapped and are illegally detaining. We are outraged that delegates, including the Australian Michael Coleman, have been denied access to family and friends and we are therefore unsure as to their wellbeing.

Free Gaza Australia is very concerned about Michael’s current condition after other passengers on board the Tahrir and M.V. Saoirse have reported being subjected to beatings and strip-searches by the Israeli military. Freedom Waves organisers are demanding that the Israeli government immediately free the remaining people they have kidnapped and are illegally detaining.

James Godfrey, spokesperson for Free Gaza Australia says: “We are outraged that delegates, including the Australian Michael Coleman, have been denied access to family and friends and we are therefore unsure as to their well being. We have heard indirectly from DFAT, but that is simply not good enough. We want to speak with Michael who is still being held in an Israeli detention centre without communication. We are unsure of what consular assistance has been provided and urge the Australian Government to ensure his immediate release,

Michael’s father John speaking early on Sunday morning said: “We have had one call from DFAT. That is all. Michael has not been able to contact us. We have support from the organisers here and around the world but not from our Government.”

We understand that the delegates were asked to sign deportation papers testifying that they entered Israel illegally and waive their right to a court hearing. They were brought into Israel against their will; therefore they have refused to sign those papers. We also understand that this peaceful resistance is what is leading to ongoing punishment and communication restrictions.

James Godfrey, a spokesperson for Free Gaza Australia, commented: “As with the Flotilla last year, Israel has gained a monopoly on the narrative of events. The selective footage released by Israeli military shows boats being hit with water cannons, but is vague and lacks detail. Since we have no direct contact with delegates we do not know exactly what happened or how people on board were treated.”

Palestinian Majd Kayal, a delegate aboard the captured Tahrir, was recently released from Givon Prison. He confirmed the “peaceful” take-over was anything but peaceful. Delegates offering non-violent resistance were threatened and then beaten by soldiers.

One delegate, 45-year-old David Heap, professor at the University of Western Ontario, was particularly badly beaten and there are reports that he was tasered.

“As a Palestinian, I was not surprised at how the IDF treated us,” said Kayal, after his release, noting this kind of abuse is a daily reality for the 1.5 million people of Gaza, who are indefinitely detained in an open-air prison.”

Before leaving Australia, Michael said: “It is only because governments fail to act that citizens of the world feel the need to do so. In spite of being a signatory to UN Human Rights Conventions, our Government has shown time and time again that it is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and gross human rights abuses.”

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 Gaza having the only closed port in the Mediterranean and preventing the passage of the peaceful Freedom Waves boats.

Free Gaza Australia calls on the Australian Government to contact the Prime Minister of Israel and demand the immediate release of Michael Coleman. We also demand evidence that the $30,000 worth of medical aid, which was on board, is actually delivered to the Gaza people and that both of the illegally seized vessels are released and returned undamaged.

End

For more information, or an interview with Michael’s Dad, John Coleman, please contact:
James Godfrey 0424 340 630

Additional Information

Freedom Wave riders beaten, denied access to family; organizers demand accountability, Canadian Freedom Waves to Gaza organisers

Captured in international waters en route to Gaza: An eyewitness account

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Media Releases

Israeli Occupation Forces Illegally board Freedom Waves boats to Gaza: Australian Detained

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Saturday 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:
James Godfrey 0424 340 630

Websites: www.tahrir.ca // www.freegazaoz.org
Email: freegazaaustralia@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GazaAustralia
Twitter: @GFFAusGroup

Extra resources

PHOTO- 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

PHOTO– 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:
http://www.presstv.com/detail/208258.html

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Media Releases

Flotilla group calls on Australian Government to ensure safety of Gaza peace activists

For immediate release, Friday 4 November 2011.

Free Gaza Australia rejects the threats by Israel to “take any necessary action” to prevent two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists, including Australian Michael Coleman, from reaching Gaza. The two boats Tahrir (Liberation) and Saoirse (Freedom) set sail from Turkey on Wednesday with the aim of breaking Israel’s illegal sea blockade of Gaza.

A spokesperson for the group, Vivienne Porzsolt said: ”The participants of this flotilla are unarmed peaceful activists and journalists who are acting entirely lawfully.

We call on the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to denounce Israel for its expressed intention. We ask that he urges the Israeli government and military to desist from intervening, boarding or towing the boats to Israel and that he insist Israel does not use force or violence against any of those on board the vessels. In particular, we demand that the Australian Government exert its influence to ensure the safety of Australian citizen Michael Coleman.”

An email to Free Gaza Australia from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on 3 November legitimised Israel’s military blockade of Gaza. While DFAT confirmed it would provide consular support to Coleman, currently on board the Tahrir, “if necessary”, rather than condemning the illegal blockade, DFAT instead advised against travel to Gaza.

“The travel advice for Israel, Gaza Strip and the West Bank strongly advises against travelling by sea to the coast of the Gaza Strip in breach of Israeli naval restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade,” a spokesperson for DFAT said.

Ms Porzsolt said: ”We call on the Australian Government to condemn Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza and the consequent collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there.”

For more information or to interview Michael Coleman on board the Tahrir, contact:
Raul Bassi 0403 037 376
James Godfrey 0424 340 630

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Flotilla News Media Releases

Australian on board Freedom Boat to Gaza

Canadian and Irish ships set to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza

(0200/3 November 2011 Sydney time)

The next “Freedom Wave” to Gaza is on its way. Sydney based youth worker Michael Coleman (http://freegazaoz.org/delegates/) joins delegates from several countries on the Canadian boat Tahrir as it sets sail for Gaza.

Two civilian boats, the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation), and the Irish Saoirse (Freedom), carrying 27 people from nine countries have successfully reached international waters. The boats are currently in the Mediterranean Sea, preparing to sail for Gaza within a matter of hours.

 

On board, Michael says: “We make this move towards freedom for all of those who have been oppressed and all those in the struggle.”

In July this year, Michael took part in the Freedom Flotilla 2, which attempted to sail from various Greek ports in order to challenge the siege on Gaza. Michael was arrested and charged in Greece for his role in assisting the Tahrir leave port to sail toward Gaza.

Free Gaza Australia spokesperson James Godfrey said: “The Tahrir and Saoirseare now in international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a matter of days. Our main obstacles now are the Israeli Occupation Force and the complicity of western governments including Australia. The wind of public opinion is in our sails as the people of the world reject this illegal blockade.”

“We demand that the Australian Government takes all necessary steps to ensure Michael’s safety and that of the Tahrir. In particular we call on Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to make representations to Israel to not interfere in any way with either of the boats as they peacefully sail to Gaza to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade.”

“Palestinian people in Gaza demand their human rights. They call for solidarity not charity. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Gazans are still prisoners with no freedom of movement, in violation of fundamental human rights. The blockade also prevents imports and exports of most goods which stifles economic activity and independence for the people of Gaza.”

The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza. Like the Occupy movement, the people of the world are saying ‘no’ to military and economic power taking precedent over human dignity and freedom.

For more information or to interview Michael Coleman on board the Tahrir, contact:

Raul Bassi, 0403 037 376

James Godfrey, 0424 340 630

 

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