Friday, 4 June 2010

Flotilla detainees 'assaulted in custody'

A leading Irish activist seized by Israeli authorities tonight revealed he was assaulted in custody while three others were severely beaten.

Dr Fintan Lane described how he feared for his life when soldiers hijacked their aid ship en route to Gaza and took those on board into captivity.

The 43-year-old historian maintained several passengers, including Libyan-Irishman Isam Bin Ali, remain unaccounted for.

“No one I’ve spoken to knows where these people are, it is very worrying,” he added.

Irishman Fiachra O Luain was injured when a row broke out with Israeli authorities in an area where about 400 detainees were being held at Ben Gurion.

Dr Lane, who is expected home in Dublin tomorrow, revealed Mr O Luain was beaten so badly he went to hospital for tests.

Al Mahdi Al Harati, a father-of-four originally from Libya, was also stretchered away after suffering a diabetes-related seizure on a flight to Turkey.

Dr Lane said Ken O’Keefe, an Irish-American passenger, was beaten by security officials at Tel Aviv airport before boarding.

“His injuries were so bad that he had to be hospitalised in Tel Aviv. The Israelis are claiming this delay in his repatriation is for technical reasons, yet another Israeli lie,” he added.

The group were among hundreds of people detained by authorities and released under massive international pressure following the deadly military-led action on the aid flotilla.

Nine people were killed in the attack.

Meanwhile, the Irish-owned ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, is continuing its slow journey to the Israeli-imposed exclusion zone. It is expected to hit the embargo area tomorrow night or Saturday morning.

Former UN diplomat Dennis Halliday, who is on board the aid ship, emphasised the aim was not provocation but getting aid cargo into Gaza.

“We are calling on the UN to inspect the cargo and escort us into Gaza, and to send a UN representative to sail on board before they enter the exclusion zone,” Mr Halliday said.

“We all remain in good spirits, and we want to thank everyone all over the world for all their support.”

Dublin-born Shane Dillon, the first activist to be sent home on Tuesday, has called on the world to stand united against Israel and impose sanctions.

Elsewhere, award-winning journalist Paul McGeough and a Turkish-Irish national are understood to be making their own arrangements home.

Dr Lane described how Israeli commandos physically attacked peaceful campaigners on board his vessel, the MV Challenger I, on Monday morning.

“Fiachra was dragged around the ground and I had a gun pointed in my face by a screaming commando,” he continued.

“His mania was so intense that I genuinely feared for my life. Others received beatings.

“When they finally took over our ship, and forced us to dock in Ashdod, we refused to disembark.”

Dr Lane said activists were forcibly removed from the boat and brought to interrogation rooms in the port, where he refused to hand over his passport.

“I was then physically assaulted, my arms were painfully twisted behind my back for prolonged periods and my passport taken,” he added.

“In prison I was told about events on the Mavi Marmara, people being shot, left to bleed to death, beaten and bitten by dogs. By all accounts it sounded like it was hell on that boat.”

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has called a mass demonstration at 2pm on Saturday against the killings and in support of the Rachel Corrie.

Meanwhile in a surprise move it was announced today that the Northern Ireland Assembly will hold an unscheduled sitting tomorrow to discuss the latest crisis in the Middle East.

The Assembly usually only sits in full session on a Monday and Tuesday, but two independent members secured the backing of 30 other representatives to force a special debate.

Under Standing Order 11 of the rules that govern the Assembly, if the First Minister and deputy First Minister, or at least 30 Assembly members request a special sitting, the Assembly can be recalled.

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