• War damage in Gaza. Saba said more boats will come (Photo: zoriah)

Irish MEP smuggles complaint out of Israeli prison

08.11.11 @ 09:27

  1. By Philip Ebels

BRUSSELS - Irish left-wing MEP Paul Murphy has said he was badly treated after he and 26 activists were detained by Israeli armed forces when they tried to sail to Gaza at the weekend.

"Our boat was almost sunk by the manner in which it was approached and boarded by the Israeli navy. People were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings," he said in a written statement from his detention centre.

"In Givon prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the prison clock recording the wrong time. We have been given no time frame as to how long we will be kept here before the deportation trial. We were denied our right by Israeli law to contact our families within 24 hours of our arrest," he added.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign, Claudia Saba, noted that Murphy was allowed one phone call to his family "But he called a party spokesperson instead, pretending him to be his brother."

For her part, Israeli Defence Forces spokeswoman, lieutenant colonel Avital Leibovich told this website no violence was used when boarding his ship. "It all took place in a matter of minutes. There was no resistance and no violence," she said.

Yoel Mester, a spokesman for the Israeli mission to the European Union, added he is "sure" the detainees "are all [being] treated fairly ... the procedures in Israel are quite similar to those in the Europe."

Murphy said earlier on his blog he chose to participate in the mini-flotilla "in response to the call from people within Gaza to try to break the siege they suffer under."

The new flotilla consisted of two vessels: one Canadian, the Tahrir, meaning "liberation" in Arabic and one Irish, the Saoirse, Irish for "freedom."

Twenty seven people were on board, five of them journalists. Six have been released so far according to reports. But many are refusing to sign a waiver saying they tried to enter Israel illegally.

"They were kidnapped and brought into Israel," Saba said.

"We gave them three options: to return to their home port, to go to an Egyptian port, or to an Israeli port. You can't inspect cargo in the middle of the sea," Leibovich noted.

A UN investigation into a Gaza flotilla last year said the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza is legal. But two weeks after the finding was published in September a separate panel of human rights experts reporting to the UN said that it is a "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law."

Saba said the so-called Freedom Waves movement will keep up its work "until the blockade is lifted ... We work as follows: as soon as we have a boat, we set sail."