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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