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Lee Rhiannon: Call for govt action on Australian detained in Israel

7 November 2011

Call for govt action on Australian detained in Israel

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has called on the Israeli government to immediately release Michael Coleman, an Australian member of the Freedom Waves to Gaza Flotilla, who has been arrested by the Israeli Defence Force.

“I have also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to work hard to ensure Mr Coleman is safe and is released without delay,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“It is the Israeli Defence Forces that have acted illegally as the boat Mr Coleman and other Freedom Waves participants were on was in international waters when intercepted.

“University of Western Ontario Professor David Heap has reported that he and Mr Coleman were transported to prison in handcuffs and leg shackles. I understand Professor Heap was tasered.

“I know Mr Coleman and congratulate him for his work in highlighting the destructive Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“I have spoken to Mr Coleman’s father who told me he is pleased with the contact he has had with DFAT but does request that every effort is made to have his son released immediately as he has done nothing wrong.

“Mr Coleman and his colleagues are to be commended for their efforts to deliver $30,000 worth of medical aid to Gaza,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council Inquiry Report of September 2010 found that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal. It is time to end it once and for all,” Senator Rhiannon said.

Contact: 0487 350 880 // lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au/

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I write to you from cell 9 of the Apartheid State of Israel

This letter is republished from our Canadian partner’s website – it is a letter from David Heap, who was on board the Tahrir and is now imprisoned in Israeli detention with the others from Tahrir (including Australian Michael Coleman) and Irish boat Saoirse.

Dear sisters and brothers, friends and loved ones,

I write to you from cell 9, block 59 Givon Prison near Ramla in Occupied Palestine.

 Although I was tasered during the assault on the Tahrir, and bruised during forcible removal dockside (I am limping slightly as a result) I am basically ok.  We, Ehab, Michael, Karen from Tahrir, as well as Karen, Kit (US) and Jihan who we saw briefly this morning.  We are most concerned about our Tahrir shipmate, Palestinian Majd Kayyal from Haifa, last seen by us at Ashdod being photographed and put in a police car.*

Although Michael and I (among others) were transported in handcuffs and leg shackles, let me stress that we are neither criminals nor illegal immigrants but rather political prisoners of the apartheid state of Israel.  Four from the Tahrir are imprisoned with 12 Irish comrades from the Saoirse, who have more experience with such issues.  The four of us, Ehab and I (Cdn), Michael (Aus) and Hassan (UK) have joined with the Irish in their political prisoners’ committee in order to press our collective demands:

  • association in the block – i.e. open cells
  • adequate writing and reading material
  • free communication with outside world – i.e. regular phone calls
  • information about shipmate women held at same prison

We add one Tahrir-specific demand: that Israeli state recognize the professional status of Democracy Now journalist Jihan Hafiz in accordance with her credentials from the US government.  All political incarceration is unjust but let me stress that in duration and conditions, our situation pales in comparison to the plight of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners and to the open air prison of Gaza.

If you have energy to devote to solidarity actions in the coming days, please concentrate on them.  We must get Tahrir back and hope Freedom Waves continue.

Free Majd Kayyal!  Free all political prisoners!  Free Gaza!  Free Palestine!

Anishnabe-debuewin, restons humaine, stay human, in love and struggle,

David

* Majd Kayyal was released, but it appears David the other political prisoners weren’t told where he was taken.   

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IRISH MEDIA RELEASE: Contact lost with Freedom Waves to Gaza

Urgent Press Release, via Irish Ship to Gaza, Friday 4 November 2011, 1:30 pm

Contact lost with Freedom Waves to Gaza

Irish and Canadian ships sailing with Freedom Waves to Gaza are likely being illegally boarded and commandeered right now by the Israeli military in international waters – or they are about to be. Freedom Waves to Gaza organisers have been unable to make contact with the MV Saoirse since it was approached by Israeli warships at 10:58 am (Irish time).

At 11:12 am (Irish time) Israeli forces made radio contact with the Tahrir and asked them to state their final destination. Canadian boat organiser, Ehab Lotayef, responded: “The conscience of humanity.” When Israeli forces repeated the question, he replied: “The betterment of humankind.”

“We have lost contact with both the Saoirse and Tahrir. There seems to be a communications blackout,” said Laurence Davis, a coordinator of the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign. “Up to now we had been in regular, scheduled telephone contact with the Saoirse. Given Israel’s stated intent to board the ships, it may be that this has already happened.”

“If Israel has yet again illegally boarded peaceful boats sailing to Gaza through international waters, then it means that it believes it can still act with impunity despite worldwide condemnation of its attack on the Flotilla of 2010. We are deeply concerned for all passengers and crew aboard the two boats, given the Israeli military’s disregard for human life when it boarded the Mavi Marmara in 2010 and shot dead nine activists,” commented Claudia Saba, a spokesperson for Irish Ship to Gaza.

“We are calling on people to take to the streets in emergency solidarity rallies. We also call on the Irish government to fulfil its obligations by formally protesting Israel’s illegal pirating on an Irish ship in international waters, and calling for the safety and immediate release of the delegates and property.”

Organiser Laurence Davis added: “The main aim of the Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is 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.

“Our mission is a peaceful humanitarian one intended to affirm the right of the Palestinian people to unimpeded access to international waters and air space, in conformity with international law and all United Nations resolutions.

We are part of a broad-based international movement of concerned citizens seeking to peacefully uphold that right in the face of continuing inaction by our governments. We will continue to send boats to Gaza until such time as this illegal and immoral blockade comes to an end.”

The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative emerged from the Freedom Flotilla initiatives. It is a non-violent, civil society movement the primary aim of which is to end the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. Bios of delegates on board the Saoirse are available here: http://irishshiptogaza.org/?page_id=494.

An emergency protest has been planned in Dublin today, Friday, at 6 pm. The meeting point is the Spire on O’Connell Street.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Laurence Davis 086 360 5053

Claudia Saba at 086 393 8821

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US MEDIA RELEASE: Boats en route to Gaza surrounded by Israeli Warships

BOATS EN ROUTE TO GAZA SURROUNDED BY ISRAELI WARSHIPS

New York – November 4, 2011

At 7:43 am EDT ground support crew lost contact with two ships, the Saoirse of Ireland and the Tahrir of Canada, carrying 27 civilian passengers, medical supplies and letters of support for the people of Gaza.

At 7:30 am EDT the Tahrir was interrogated, via radio, by the Israeli Navy. The ships were approximately 48 nautical miles off the coastline, well into international waters. Asked by the Israeli Navy for their destination, Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef replied, “The conscience of humanity.” When they repeated the question, asking for final destination, Lotayef said, “The betterment of mankind.”

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of Gaza since June 2006. Numerous international organizations, including committees of the United Nations, have concluded the blockade is in violation of international law.

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BREAKING: Israeli forces intercept Irish and Canadian Boats

Urgent Press Release, via Irish Boat to Gaza, Friday 4 November 2011, 11:15 am

ISRAELI FORCES INTERCEPT IRISH AND CANADIAN BOATS
  
URGENT: At 10.58 am (Irish time) we received an urgent call from Dr. Fintan Lane, National Coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza aboard the MV Saoirse, to say that two Israeli ships are rapidly approaching the Irish and Canadian boats.

The MV Saoirse and Tahrir are 48 nautical miles from Gaza’s shores.
We have since received news (at 11:12 am Irish time) that Israeli forces have made radio contact with the Tahrir and are requesting their final destination.
The situation is developing rapidly.

Irish Ship to Gaza calls on the Irish government to issue an urgent statement to the Israeli government warning against any harm to the passengers aboard the MV Saoirse.

Photos of the MV Saoirse before it left Turkey on Wednesday may be downloaded here:
 
https://rcpt.yousendit.com/1275036230/b9150058383b043200e82aaa38e959e9

ENDS
Laurence Davis 086 360 5053

Claudia Saba at 086 393 8821

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Follow the location of the Freedom Waves boats to Gaza live online

You can follow the location of the boats to Gaza in real time by clicking here.

At 9:50pm Sydney time, the boats were very close to Gaza:

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EXCLUSIVE: Latest update from Aussie Michael Coleman on the Tahrir to Gaza

 Mediterranean Sea, on board the Tahrir, 11am Friday 4 November

Just in, another phone call update from Michael, our Aussie delegate on board the Tahrir. Michael tells us that if all goes to plan and there is no intervention by the Israeli military, the Tahrir and the Irish boat the Saoirse should reach Gaza in around 7 hours around 5pm or 6pm local time.

He said that at present there is no sign of Israeli authorities monitoring the boats visually and that the only boat in sight from the Tahrir is the Irish boat, Saoirse.

Michael said he is feeling excited about the possibility of reaching Gaza and has today been speaking with journalists from both Palestine and Australia.

Mediterranean Sea, on board the Tahrir10am Friday 4 November

When we spoke to Michael last night (Thursday 3 November) he told us that the Tahrir was less than 200 nautical miles from Gaza. He reiterated that the Tahrir was determined to “steer directly into Gazan waters from international waters.”

Delegates on board the Tahrir had discussions about how to deal with possible boarding of the vessel by the Israeli military, however all on board were hopeful they Israeli authorities would not intervene in what is a peaceful civilian mission. Michael told us that the activists on board were hanging banners up on the boat.

At around 10am Tahrir time on Friday 4 November (7pm Sydney time) Michael phoned to let us know that everyone on board was continuing to make preparations for arrival in Gaza, as well as remaining vigilant about the possibility of intervention by the Israeli military.

Michael said: “We are currently about 85 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. We had an unidentified ship following us and shining very bright lights, like a spotlight, on the Tahrir. It followed us for most of last night but it disappeared at around at 3am.”

Michael told us he was surprised that the Israeli military had not made an attempt to intervene and raid the Tahrir last night, saying that he had slept in his jacket and had protective gear nearby in case of a raid and the use of tear gas or similar by the Israeli military.

He remains alert of this possibility. Just moments before speaking with us Michael tweeted: “Eye protection, mouth protection, ear protection + documentation and communication equipment, check – Bring it on IOF”

The Tahrir is now on course to arrive in Gaza later today which means any intervention, by the Israeli authorities, to stop the arrival of the Freedom Waves to Gaza boats would have to occur in daylight.

“That the IOF may raid in the daylight is unusual,” said Michael.

Michael is hopeful the Tahrir will reach its destination and is excited about arriving in Gaza.

As we left Michael he said everyone on board was feeling prepared and optimistic, ready for whatever lies ahead.

Michael told us said he’s “preparing to meet Gaza” and that if the Israeli military did not intervene “the Tahrir should reach Gaza in the daylight”.

“I’m ecstatic, the closer we get the level of anxiety rises, but I’m incredibly excited.”

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VIDEO: Australian delegate on why he’s so determined to try and go to Gaza for a third time

Our delegate Michael is a long-time campaigner for justice and freedom for Palestine, in this video he explains why he is so determined to get to Gaza.

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Audio update from Australian delegate Michael Coleman

Australian delegate on board the Tahrir for Freedom Waves to Gaza, Michael Coleman, filed this audio update with the Institute for Middle East Understanding earlier today (or Thursday night Tahrir middle-of-the-Medditerraean time).

Listen to what he had to say:

9:48pm EDT: Australian passenger Michael Coleman updates us from #FreedomWaves flotilla (mp3)

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Locals and internationals wait to greet Freedom Waves boats at Gaza seaport

International Solidarity Movement: New Flotilla Scheduled to Arrive in Gaza Friday, Nov.

4

Press Conference Scheduled to Welcome Boats at Gaza Seaport 9:30 a.m.

[Gaza]  Local fishermen, Palestinian youth, civil society, and international supporters will be awaiting the arrival of Freedom Waves to Gaza which is currently approaching the blockaded strip.  The press conference is being hosted by the Palestinian Fishing and Marine Sport Association (PFMSA), and will be held in Gaza’s fishing port on Friday, 4 November at 9:30 a.m.

“Tomorrow we are gathering in the port to welcome the passengers on the flotilla who are coming here in solidarity with the people of Gaza, said Mahfouz El Kabariti, President of PFMSA.  “We hope that they reach Palestine safely and we call on everyone in Gaza to join us at the port to reciprocate the solidarity that they are showing to us.”

Following the press conference, attendees and media are invited to board fishing boats and sail out of the harbor to welcome the flotilla to Gaza.

For the latest updates follow WitnessGaza.com and #FreedomWaves on Twitter.

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