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Open Letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard

This is the letter we sent on Tuesday 7 November to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and copied to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd:

Dear Prime Minister Gillard

Many people in Australia have been organising an Australian contingent to join the Freedom Wave to Gaza initiative which left Turkey late last week. As you would be aware, two boats full of unarmed civilians carrying solidarity messages, medical aid and extending the hand of friendship were attacked by Israeli military in an act of piracy in international waters.

Sydney youth worker Michael Coleman was on board one of these boats and was forcibly transported to Israel and detained. Along with other Freedom Waves activists, he was assaulted, hand-cuffed and shackled. As we write, Michael remains in an Israeli gaol. He has been charged with no offense and has been permitted only a one minute telephone call to his family.

In recent days we have received messages of support from a number of prominent Australians. A full list of messages and supporting comment are on our website: http://freegazaoz.org/message-for-michael/

At present, Israeli authorities are refusing to immediately release the Freedom Waves activists from prison and deportation unless they sign a voluntary deportation agreement (waiver of right to see a judge). This waiver states that they came to Israel voluntarily and entered

the country illegally. The Israeli authorities are trying to pressure Michael and the other political prisoners to sign a false declaration. It seeks to absolve the Israeli government of responsibility for its illegal abduction of foreign nationals in international waters.

We understand Michael and others are refusing to sign the waiver as at no point did Michael or anyone on board the two boats, or organising the mission, ever intend to travel to Israel. On the contrary, the boats were illegally intercepted and forcibly transported to Ashdod.

We demand the Australian Government takes immediate action, to:

1. Pressure the Israeli government to unconditionally release and facilitate the safe return of Michael Coleman and all political prisoners.

2. Demand the release of the Tahrir and Saoirse along with all personal property, as well as compensation for damages incurred by the act of piracy that the Israeli government committed on the high seas.

3. Ensure that Israel ends its illegal blockade of Gaza to enable freedom of movement for people and goods.

Yours Sincerely

James Godfrey
Free Gaza Oz

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