Irish flotilla activists prevented from leaving Israel

The Irish boat MV Saoirse (Gaelic for Freedom) that is carrying pro Palestinian activists and aid to the Gaza Strip, at Gocek Bay in Turkey on 2 November 2011. (Photo: AFP - Irish Ship To Gaza)

By: Antoun Issa

Published Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seven Irish participants in the Freedom Waves flotilla were prevented from boarding their flights from Israel today, and remain in Israeli custody.

The seven activists were due to depart today, with the remaining seven Irish participants scheduled to leave Israel tomorrow.

The Irish government has lodged a protest with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, requesting immediate travel for the detained Irish activists, the Irish news service RTE reported.

Gerry MacLochlainn, Councillor for Sinn Fein in Derry City Council and spokesman for the Irish Ship to Gaza, said Israel is treating its peace activists like criminals.

“It’s a joke that the Israelis are detaining our activists on grounds of illegal entry, when they had no desire to go to Israel,” he said.

MacLochlainn told Al-Akhbar that Israel had no right to kidnap the Freedom Waves peace activists, as they were in international waters.

According to MacLochlainn, the seven activists due to leave today were transferred to the Ashdod airport last night but were told by Israeli guards that they could not find their flight.

“This morning the women [activists] were put into a van and driven around the airport. They were told the Israelis couldn't find the plane,” he said.

MacLochlainn is not convinced by Israel’s “administrative excuse” and has demanded the immediate release of all its activists.

Meanwhile, Canadian activists David Heap and Ehab Lotayef are scheduled to arrive in Canada today after five days of detention in Israel.

The Canadian Boat to Gaza announced that its remaining Canadian activists, along with a detained Australian, were expected to leave Israel by the end of the week.

The fate of British journalist and correspondent for Iran’s Press TV, Hassan Ghani, remains unknown. Ghani remains in Israeli custody, with no information on his expected release.

Twenty-seven Freedom Waves activists aboard the Canadian Tahrir and Irish Saoirse ships were detained by Israeli authorities last Friday, attempting to break Israel’s siege on Gaza.

The ships were confronted by the Israeli Navy in international waters, and forcefully escorted to the port city of Ashdod, where they were subsequently detained.

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