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News, July 2009

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Former US Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, and Irish Nobel Prize Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Still Detained by Israeli Occupation Government

Israel deports five Free Gaza activists; Ireland calls for release of Nobel Peace Prize winner

Date: 03 / 07 / 2009  Time:  12:33
Gaza - Ma’an -

Five Bahraini citizens participating in the Free Gaza Movement’s voyage to Gaza were deported on Friday, following their Tuesday afternoon seizure by Israeli forces in international waters off the Gaza coast.

Coordinator of the Palestinian International Campaign to Lift the Siege Amjad Al-Shawa confirmed that one of the Bahraini nationals is a reporter for the Al-Jazeera network. All five are expected to be escorted to Ben Gurion International Airport where other Al-Jazeera journalists will be awaiting their arrival.

Two Palestinian activists and organizers with the Free Gaza Movement were released Thursday, and reported being held in unsanitary warehouse quarters and were questioned by Israeli intelligence.

A report from the New York Times said the Bahrainis were kept in a separate facility from other imprisoned solidarity activists like former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Irish peace activist and Nobel laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

Ireland demands release of nationals

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin called for the swift release of two Irish nationals detained from the ship including the Nobel Peace Prize winner and a second man identified as Derek Graham.

In a statement received by the Free Gaza Movement, Martin said his department has been closely following the situation and was in ongoing contact with Israeli authorities.

"My immediate priority is ensuring the safety and welfare of Ms Maguire and Mr Graham and securing their release as soon as possible," the minister said.

"I have been assured by the Israeli authorities that they are both well and are being properly treated. An officer from the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv visited yesterday with Ms Maguire and Mr Graham to provide assistance and will endeavor to make a further consular visit today."

"I would again renew my call for the release of Ms Maguire and Mr Graham as well as the other nineteen passengers detained on The Spirit of Humanity," he added.

"I would also call upon the Israeli Government to ensure that the humanitarian supplies for the people of Gaza being transported on The Spirit of Humanity are made available as soon as possible to the Palestinian authorities for distribution."

The minister called the current Israeli blockade of Gaza "completely unacceptable" and called for all border crossings into the coastal salient to be opened to humanitarian and commercial traffic.

The Free Gaza Movement’s ship, the Spirit of Humanity, was overtaken by eight Israeli naval warships in international waters on 30 June. All 22 crew members aboard the vessel were detained and most will be deported, Israeli authorities said. The Israeli navy threatened to fire on the boat, which identified itself as a civilian ship bringing supplies to the Gaza Strip, and noted they had been cleared for sail by Cyprus customs authorities.

The ship was nonetheless boarded and taken over, then brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod where activists were taken to prison facilities.

Two Free Gaza members released, others await deportation

Date: 02 / 07 / 2009  Time:  16:47
Bethlehem - Ma’an -

Two of the 21 Free Gaza ship crew members were released without charges Wednesday, both Palestinian citizens of Israel, following interrogation by intelligence officers.

Nineteen other crew members, including a former US congresswoman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, remain in prison cells at Israel’s Ashdod jail facility awaiting deportation.

The group was overwhelmed by eight Israeli naval warships as they steered a small ferry carrying reporters and humanitarian supplies toward the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. According to the capturing officers the ship was in violation of the Israeli blockade of the area, which was a closed military area as a consequence.

Free Gaza members on the Spirit of Humanity were threatened with live fire on two occasions, they said, and have pledged to continue their efforts to secure the safe release of the 19 remaining imprisoned crew members, and to continue efforts to break the Israeli siege on the coastal strip.

The two members released from prison Wednesday were Lubna Masarwa and Huwaida Arraf, both organisers of the Free Gaza Movement.

In an interview with the Israeli news agency Ynet, Arraf, who is also a citizen of Israel, said that authorities "put us in a warehouse, where we slept on a cockroach-infested cement floor, as armed soldiers were monitoring us.

"They didn't say a word to us. They confiscated all our personal belongings and phones, and they didn't let us contact anyone. A day later they left us at the Ashdod central bus station without any money or belongings," Ynet quoted her as saying.

"What they did to us is unforgivable, but we're not the story here," she added. "The fact they threatened us with violence because we wanted to transfer medical supplies and drawing equipment for children is simply absurd."

Free Gaza Movement's Two Palestinian 48 organizers released from Israeli detention

Thursday July 02, 2009 23:47 by Press Release - Free Gaza Movement

Lubna Masarwa and Huwaida Arraf, both organisers of the Free Gaza Movement, have now been released from Ashdod Detention Facility, where military authorities had held them from 9.00 p.m. on 30th June until 1.00 p.m. on 1st July, 2009, having arrested and detained them while in Gazan territorial waters (approx. 20 nautical miles from Gaza Port) at 3.00 p.m. on 30th June.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Maguire have given telephone interviews from their prison cells, where they await deportation. 

To arrange such interviews, contact Free Gaza Movement (either Greta Berlin or Caoimhe Butterly, at +357 99 081 767), who will also supply current news or information as to the whereabouts of those Free Gaza 21 who are awaiting deportation, or the current status of legal negotiations as to those deportations.

Free Gaza Movement will continue its activities to break the siege on Gaza, to highlight the plight of Gazans under total Israeli siege and occupation, and to remind the world of the imprisonment of 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails or detention centers, under administrative detention, most of them without trial.

Israel states that it denied entry to the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and 21 Free Gaza human rights defenders, because Gaza is a closed military area and “a blockaded area”.  The Israeli Navy threatened to fire at the boat and on several occasions during the voyage from Cyprus attempted to stop the boat (at 3.00 a.m. and at 11.00 am on 30th June), when they surrounded it with up to eight naval gunboats.  Nevertheless, both Ms. Mosarwa and Ms. Arraf have been released without charge or court appearance.

At 2.30 a.m. on 1st July, Ms. Mosarwa was investigated by the General State Security (GSS) – the Shabbak, but not by the police or military. 

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