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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