Saturday, June 19, 2010
From Paul Larudee’s Blog: http://hurriyya.blogspot.com/
Account of my Capture and Imprisonment as part of the Freedom Flotilla
Abuse at the Hands of the Most Moral Army in the World
Sorry if this account is a bit dry. It was created for legal purposes, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get a chance to improve upon it, so I thought I should make it available for those who might be interested. Please note that at no time did the prison authorities allow daily outdoor exercise, access to telephones, or access to a lawyer. This is illegal even under Israeli law.
Initial Questionnaire for American Citizens on Gaza Flotilla Boats
Paul Wilder AKA Paul Larudee
405 Vista Heights Rd., El Cerrito, CA 94530, USA
Date of Birth
25 April, 1946
Telephone contact details
English, French, moderate German, Spanish & Arabic, some Greek
Describe what happened upon initial Israeli contact
Spotted Israeli soldiers boarding from the rear of our vessel, joined them in going up the stairs to the upper deck. I locked arms with other passengers to defend the wheelhouse. (See more detailed description below.)
Twisted joints, widespread contusions, hearing loss (probably temporary), mild concussion
Medical treatment given, including location and any hospitalization
Taken to Israeli hospital, but I refused x-rays and treatment.
Forthcoming availability and willingness to give a full statement
Willing and can be available.
List confiscated equipment and any lost data, pictures, recordings, in detail: what sort of camera, how many photos, written texts – in what circumstances was it taken and by whom
Suitcase not yet recovered, nor hat and shoes. Suitcase had Blackberry and Greek mobile phone inside, along with personal belongings, medications and toiletries. These were all left behind on the Sfendoni when I jumped overboard. In addition, the medications that I had on my person were confiscated and the clothes that were torn off me were not returned to me.
Date Time Place Description 31/5/10 0200 Passenger vessel Sfendoni, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza in the Eastern Mediterranean Captain Theodoros Boukas alerts us of Israeli communications demanding that we change course away from Gaza. He orders us all to don life jackets. 0400 Israeli soldiers begin boarding from the rear, head upstairs to upper deck. I do the same. I join other passengers in blocking the wheelhouse by locking arms and preventing entrance. Soldiers break window(s), taser us (me twice on the left arm), throw stun grenades, fire paint pellets, beat us with batons (or something). Two stun grenades go off in enclosed space less two feet from my right ear, causing pain. My left leg is struck with a baton. They pry us away from the wheelhouse and take control, restraining us with plastic ties on the hands. At least one of the soldiers is regularly filming for as long as I am on board. 0430 I slip away and hide in the space between the wheelhouse and water tanks, where I can overhear the UHF communication from and to the other ships. Also Israeli communication, but I don’t know Hebrew. 0500 They spot me as the sky begins to lighten, but they do nothing. 0530 I decide to join the others and exit from my hiding area. I remove my own handcuffs, but the soldiers want to replace them even though they have been removed from everyone else. They order me to sit down; I refuse. The ship’s doctor (Khalid Qabbani) dresses my wounds. He notes that my shirt has been torn for most of its length. 0600 It is now fully light, and the soldiers have most if not all of the passengers seated on the upper deck. They begin to take them away one at a time for purposes unknown. I refuse and remain, but others comply. I challenge the others to refuse, but they comply. I decide to jump overboard in an act of defiance, to slow the progress of the operation and to encourage others to resist. I climb over the rail and jump into the sea. Most of the passengers as well as some of the soldiers witness the act. 0630 In the sea, 60 miles off the coast of Ashdod The Sfendoni stops. After 10 minutes, an Israeli naval vessel (number JL238 or similar) appears. One of the sailors throws a life preserver. I ignore it. They try a grappling hook. I catch it but let go before being pulled on board. After several tries, I attach it to the rope ladder they have slung over the side. They then try a pole with a hook, but I swim away. They manoeuvre the boat with side jets, but I am able to avoid by staying close to the axis. They reverse the boat and then come towards me, but I place myself in the path and they stop. They prepare an inflatable Zodiac and lower it into the water with a crew of four. The outboard gas line appears clogged, and by that time I am much farther away. They throw a line from the larger vessel and tow it close to me. Although the motor only works for 10 seconds at a time, it is enough to reach me at that range. They pull me aboard, punch me and slam my head into the rigid floor, injuring my right eye (black eye results). They fasten my wrists and ankles with nylon ties. They take me to the larger vessel, tie ropes around my mid section and try to hoist me up. The ropes slip and they grab me by the handcuffs and arms. The ties are cutting through my wrists and it feels like my arms are separating from their sockets, but they get me on board. At no time do I actively resist, push or strike back. 0800 Aboard the JL238 They blindfold me, then take me to the stern of the ship, where they seat me on some jagged material designed to provide traction for their combat boots. They tie me to a pole behind my back, with my hands still fastened in front of me. I am at an awkward angle, requiring me to arch my back, and unable to change my position. I am also getting very cold because of the wet clothes and being exposed to the wind. I begin to shudder uncontrollably. They bring a pair of sweatpants, tear off my own and try to put them on me, but are unable to do so much beyond my crotch. They give me water. My rear is exposed directly to the jagged gripping material and some sections of skin are exposed directly to the sun. I complain. They cover some of the exposed areas and bring the shirt matching the sweatpants to put under my rear. They tell me that they will take me below, but only if I agree to tell them my name and promise not to cause problems, like jumping overboard. However they do not let me answer until later, at which time I agree to not cause additional problems, but not to provide any information. Finally, after 3-4 hours, they take me below, where they feed me a sandwich and allow me to wear the sweatshirt matching the pants. As we reach Ashdod, I ask to use the toilet. They refuse several times, until I threaten to go without a toilet. They relent. Soon after, we arrive at the port. They remove my leg shackles. 1400 Processing center, port of Ashdod Around a half dozen officers, presumably from the prison service, are there to meet me upon arrival at the port. I collapse at the dock, refusing to speak, move or otherwise participate in my capture. The officers try to force me to walk by stressing my shoulder, elbow and wrist joints, to no effect except to cause me to scream in pain. They carry me roughly to the processing stations, but soon call for a stretcher, to which they strap me. Much of this appears to be filmed with several cameras, which I assume to be news media. I see a number of other passengers, many of them from the Sfendoni. I am transferred to a gurney, placed into an ambulance and taken to a hospital. 1500 Hospital At the hospital, they transfer me from the gurney to a hospital bed, banging my backbone against the bed rail. They look at my wounds and ask where I hurt. I do not respond. They assume that my name is Paul Wilder from the name in my passport, which is in their possession. I am taken for x-ray, but refuse to cooperate. I ask for aspirin, but they refuse and say they will send me back to the processing center. I point out that the sweatpants that were given to me on the boat now have a large tear in the crotch area and that I need a new pair. They refuse and say that a new pair will be given to me at the processing center. I see Sfendoni captain Theodoros Boukas at the hospital with an ear injury, but they don’t allow him to talk to me. I ask to use the restroom, but they say I will have to wait. I ask several more times, then announce that I will use the bed as a toilet. They make a real toilet available. At some point, metal handcuffs with hinge joints are placed on me. They are used to stress my wrists while transporting me to the processing center. 1630 Ashdod processing center When we arrive at the processing center, several officers carry me while stressing my hands and legs, suspending me from the metal handcuffs, and then place me in a wheelchair. The officers take me to several stations, where I am photographed and fingerprinted, passively, but without my cooperation. Most of the other Sfendoni passengers appear to be gone. I ask for a new pair of pants, but nothing happens. Passengers continue to be processed, but I recognize few of them. They are probably mostly Turks from the Mavi Marmara. I see Dr. Evangelos Pissias, head of the Greek delegation. He tells me that there were shootings and dead aboard the Mavi Marmara, but no details or confirmation. After at least an hour, I stand and demand a new pair of pants, demonstrating the problem of the wide open crotch area. Two passengers intervene and argue on my behalf. The officers get angry and speak in Hebrew. Approximately ten officers grab me and take me to the other end of the room, where they drop me to the floor, beat me, slam my head against the concrete floor and kick me in the head and midsection. I scream. Pissias comes to my defense and is beaten. I learn later that he suffers a broken leg and at least one broken rib. After they finish, I shout appreciation for the most moral army in the world and continue to demand a pair of pants in a loud voice. They place me in a prison van. I wait and then Captain Theodoros Boukas joins me. The van leaves. 1830 Givon prison, hospital ward, Ramle At the hospital ward of the prison, Boukas and I are issued hospital clothes and are processed. We are given a physical examination. My blood sugar is tested and I receive diabetes medication. A “social worker” calling himself Amit asks why I came to Israel. I respond that I was kidnapped and a victim of human trafficking across international borders, and that I would like to cooperate in the prosecution of the party that kidnapped me, i.e. the Israeli navy. Our room is in a special high security section that has only two cells. The television has been removed. We ask to see our lawyer and diplomatic missions. They say that this will be taken care of the next day. We ask to use the telephone. They refuse. I ask why everyone else has a television except us. They say that they have instructions that we are a special case. I ask for paper and pencil. They say that this is reasonable, but they do not bring it. We eat and shower, then sleep. 6/1/10 1100 Givon prison, Ramle We are taken from the room, with our belongings. We receive some medication and a medical discharge. Our hands and ankles are shackled. We are placed in a security vehicle and driven a short distance to the main prison. Our belongings are inventoried and we are given a receipt, except for my torn clothes, which they say they will destroy. I refuse. They say they will ask me before destroying my clothes. I ask for a receipt. They refuse. They issue me some clothes, but Boukas is allowed to wear his own clothes. 1300 We are placed in what appears to be a holding cell, near the processing area. It has no window and no fresh air. I ask to see a representative from my embassy. They say that my embassy will be notified. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse. 1800 I ask for a cell with a window. They refuse. I say that I will refuse food, water and medicine until we have improved accommodation. 1900 We are moved to a cell with window. The entire wing of the prison is empty of prisoners except for Boukas and me. The televisions have been removed. I ask for paper and pencil. They refuse. I ask to see the representative of my embassy. They say that my embassy has been notified. We both ask to use the telephone. They refuse. At no time are we permitted to go outside for exercise and fresh air. We are not in contact with any other prisoners, although we can see some through the glass of a door separating their section of the prison from ours. 6/2/10 1000 Givon prison, Ramle I ask when I will see my embassy representative. They say they don’t know. I ask for my lawyer. They refuse. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse. I ask for pencil and paper. They refuse. 1300 I announce that I will go on a hunger and medication strike until I see my embassy representative. They say that he will be there in the afternoon. 1400 The prison director says that the U.S. consul general has come to see me. He asks my to put on a shirt over my undershirt. I refuse. He says that it is prison regulations and that he will not allow me to see the consul general without the shirt. I tell him that I know he wants to cover the marks of the beatings, but I want everyone to see them. He gets angry, but allows me to see the consul general. 1430 I meet with the Consul General, Andrew Parker. He says that he brought reading material but that the prison authorities are refusing to allow me to have them. He is unable to provide me with pen and paper. I inform him of the beatings and other treatment, and authorize him to share all the information with anyone who wants it. He says he will call my wife as soon as he leaves the prison. I ask him to tell her to call my member of Congress, George Miller. He tells me that I am the last of nine Americans that he has visited, and that he had a hard time finding me. The others were at the prison in Bir el-Saba (“Beersheva”). I ask him to contact a lawyer for me. He says he cannot do that, but provides me with a list of lawyers and information about Israeli legal procedures. The prison authorities allow me to have the information. It is paper, but no pencil. I ask him to tell my wife to contact a lawyer for me. 1600 I ask to see a lawyer. They say we will be leaving before a lawyer can do anything. I say I want a lawyer, anyway. They say that it will be taken care of tomorrow. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse. 6/3/10 1100 Givon prison, Ramle Boukas and I are moved to another cell, which has one prisoner in it, a one-armed Yemeni businessman named Abdulhakim. He was on the Mavi Marmara and confirms the earlier reports of shooting and deaths. He was brought to the prison with others, including Turks, from the Mavi Marmara, who are in adjacent cells. 1300 The guards tell the three of us to gather our belongings because we are going to be moved to another prison. However, almost as soon as we do so, a representative from the Greek embassy arrives to talk to Boukas. When he returns, he has a pen and paper for me. He says that all the other Greeks are at the prison in Bir el-Saba. 1400 The prison director announces that we will be taken to the airport to leave the country. He says that it is required for me to wear a shirt over my undershirt in order to exit the cell. I refuse. He says that I will stay in prison if I don’t wear the shirt. I say I want to talk to my lawyer. He asks me the name of my lawyer. I say Gaby Lasky, and that if she is not available, I will talk to Lea Tsemel, and if not her then Michael Sfard, and if not Sfard then Yael Berda. He finally relents and lets me leave in my undershirt. 1430 They handcuff us. Our possessions are returned to us except for my medications and torn clothes. I insist on having them returned. They say they have no knowledge of my torn clothes. I remind them of what happened. They say that they have no idea where they are. I refuse to leave. They try to force me. I do nonviolent resistance. They pressure my arm joints and lift me by the handcuffs. I scream. They shout. They say that the clothes are in the van and that I will see them when I go there. I say I will not leave unless I see them first. They bring the clothes. I go to the van, but they do not give me the clothes. They force me into the van. The woman guard in the front seat keeps the orange bag with my torn clothes and promises to give them to me at the airport. Boukas and I are in one section of the prison vehicle on the way to the airport; Abdulhakim, a Turkish professor named Ibrahim and one or two other Turks are in the other section of the van. There are several other vehicles transporting other passengers who were imprisoned. 1530 Lid (“Ben-Gurion”) Airport We wait for about two hours in the van at the airport before entering. The guard does not give me my torn clothes. I am taken to a room that has around ten Flotilla passengers for processing. I know some of them. They provide more information about what happened on the Mavi Marmara. One of them has the telephone number of my lawyer, Gaby Lasky, and gives it to me. The officers tell me that I will be put on an airplane to Istanbul. They ask me to sign a paper. I refuse to sign the paper and to go anywhere without first talking to my lawyer. They say that I will not be allowed to leave without signing it. I still refuse, and say that I don’t want to leave without talking to my lawyer, anyway. They say that I will be taken back to prison and that I will not be permitted to see a lawyer for several days. 1700 The Greek nationals tell me that their government will send an airplane to take them to Greece, and they persuade me to go with them. They say that they have talked to a lawyer and that I will not have to sign anything. We are taken to an exit where several groups of Greeks are taken by bus. Only a few of us remain to be picked up. 1800 An officer asks me to come with him back through the passport control area. I comply, thinking that this is part of the processing to put me on the Greek aircraft. They take me to an area that has 30-35 passengers seated in several rows, being processed. I recognize some of them, including Nabil Hallak, Abbas Nasser and Ken O’Keefe. They tell me that I need to sign a form and then I will be sent to Istanbul. I tell them that I am not going to Istanbul and that arrangements have been made for me to go on the Greek transport to Athens. They say that this will not be permitted and that I have no choice. I tell them that I have the choice not to sign the form and that even if they force me on the Turkish transport, I will remove my clothes and they will refuse to take me. They tell me that in that case they will take me to prison again. I tell them that I also will not go willingly to prison, and I collapse on the floor. Four or five of them lift me by the metal handcuffs, cutting into the wounds that already exist and causing sharp pain. Others stress the joints in my arms and legs. I scream while being carried away. They start beating me. The other passengers begin shouting and fighting with the officers. I am dropped on the floor, where I hear the commotion behind me, but am in too much pain to do anything. 5-6 officers carry a struggling man to the wall opposite me, drop him on the floor, then beat him and kick him. It seems to me that he must have broken bones. After the noise dies down, they come back for me. They carry me as before, by the metal handcuffs and legs, stressing my joints. One officer hits me several times on the left side of my face. I challenge him to do it again. He does. I tell him it’s not enough, and that perhaps he should try shooting me in the head, and that he’s not very good at torturing a 64-year-old man. They bounce my head off the marble floor, then carry me down the stairs to the place where the busses pick us up. The Greek friends who had been awaiting transport when I was taken away are still there. 1900 The Greek friend, Dimitris Plionis, who has been acting as liaison, comes for me and apologizes that he didn’t stay with me. We wait for the documents of the other Greeks to be completed. In the meantime, other passengers, mostly apparently Turk, come individually to board another transport. Many of them were apparently part of the fighting on my behalf, and are bearing the wounds. We exchange solidarity words and gestures. The passenger who had been beaten in front of me is carried down by two others. He is obviously in great pain, probably broken ribs and limbs. Ken O’Keefe comes down, his face covered in blood and a split in his forehead. I thank him for his defence of me and ask about his family. He says he plans to reject deportation and fight the case in the courts. I give him the name and number of my lawyer, Gaby Lasky. We all finally leave on a bus, including Ken. 1930 The bus takes us to the Lid Immigration Detention Center, where the rest of the Greeks are awaiting transport. It is a place I recognize from a two week stay in 2006. I am surprised to discover Gaby Lasky there. We talk and I sign some papers for her to help with charges being filed against Israeli government agencies and persons. I introduce her to Ken. The Greek Ambassador meets with the Greek citizens. 2100 We are taken to the transport aircraft. After a long wait, apparently due in part to a discrepancy over my name, the plane leaves for Athens.
Published 06 June, 2010, 10:32
Activist Youssef Benderbal gave RT a first-hand account of Israel’s attack on the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla which had been heading for Gaza this week.
RT: Mr Youssef thank you very much for talking to RT. We’ve already heard the Israeli point of view over the humanitarian aid ship seizure. We would now like to hear yours. Can you tell us how it all happened?
Youssef Benderbal: First of all, you should understand that all the ships that were taking part in that action had gathered in one place in international waters. I am insisting that they were in international waters because, in accordance with the free access principle, a presence in international waters doesn’t require permission from any country. This is the first thing I would like to say.
Second, the ships were close to each other. I was on the Greek vessel. There were also some influential people on board and peace activists of various nationalities: Greeks, Italians, Frenchmen and even Americans. I’d love to give credit to the US ambassador, the former US ambassador in Iraq. He is 81 years old, but he accompanied us all the time on our sea voyage.
I should say that there were all sorts of people there. Representatives of about forty nationalities were on board. It was a Greek ship. Its name was the Sfendoni. It was 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning. We were asleep. Some of us were sleeping on the floor, others were sleeping below. I was sleeping below. I woke up. I climbed to the deck. What did I see there? I saw my French friend. I asked him: “What’s up?” “Look, what’s up,” he answered. I saw a Turkish vessel which was well lit. It had several floors, two at least, I think.
There were at least 500 people on board that ship and I saw them. There were women, old people and children. A helicopter was descending from above, and then it dropped soldiers.
Then I saw commandos coming in motor boats. They were masked and armed and were heading for the ship. I heard shots being fired.
They were approaching, and were practically on board the vessel. As I turned my head, I saw a raincoat. I should say that the attack was simultaneous and well-co-ordinated. All the ships were stormed and captured simultaneously.
When I turned around, I saw a soldier, a commando who had climbed up on board. He was wearing a mask, and he was armed. What was I supposed to do? We had to do two things: to stay on top and warn the others about the commandos and the attack. We had received orders. There were three of them. First, we had to protect ourselves, but without using weapons. Therefore, we sat down as the activists of Greenpeace do: they sit very close to each other. So, we stuck together so as to prevent the Israelis from passing to the captain’s cabin and to protect it for as long as possible. We were putting up resistance. In short, we were showing our disobedience.
Second, we had to sit and guard the access to the engine room. Third, we had to meet the aggressors halfway, not to settle scores, but to establish dialogue. We wanted to talk to them calmly, as we are talking now, in order to defuse this military tension. I emerged in front of them just as I am now standing in front of you. I moved slightly, there was a stir. I rose to my feet like this and said that I was a peace activist and that we were all peace activists.
It was clear that I didn’t have any evil intentions. But they didn’t understand anything and they didn’t do anything. They had very clear orders. In a very aggressive manner they said to me: “Sit down! Shut up!” They took us and the Americans of whom I’ve told you, aside. They put us into a big room together with our friends where we ate and slept. It was our bedroom and our canteen. But the most terrible things happened to the people who tried to defend the captain’s cabin with their bodies.
My French friend was struck with a fist on his jaw. That was ruthless. We were unarmed and we didn’t provoke anybody. One of the activists was hit straight in the head and another one had something like a black eye. One more person suffered light injuries in the arm and body.
But the man who was worst hit was behind the ship’s wheel. Yes, he was the captain, and I admire his courage. He was seriously injured. He had a torn ear. Yes, it was the captain. He was wounded in his ear, it was torn.
He was holding something close to his neck to fix it because he was hurt. He also had a leg injury, but despite that he kept talking.
RT: Did you notice what was happening on board the Turkish ship at that moment?
YB: No, no. Since they neutralized us and placed us in one room. It was only upon my return to France that I learnt about those human casualties. This act deserves to be condemned.
RT: Did you hear of other people using guns?
YB: No, not a word.
RT: Cold steel?
YB: No, no one did that on board my ship. Please, believe me. We didn’t do that. We had very clear orders which banned us from provoking them. We stayed calm and defended ourselves only with our bodies.
RT: Were your instructions the same for all the ships?
YB: I don’t know what happened on other ships because each vessel had its own rules. It should be understood that we should consider the whole situation. It was at night when the Turks were praying. We heard how they were called to pray. We could hear those calls every evening through a speaker.
So that was clear. And what did the Israelis do? They approached the praying people. From that moment everyone was in danger. The Israelis expected those people to give them a hearty welcome and greet them with apples and tangerines. But that was impossible. It’s absolutely normal that they received that kind of welcome. But I disagree. Who gave them the right to climb onto my ship? It’s illegal.
RT: What happened after you all gathered on deck?
YB: We were detained from 4 o’clock in the morning until 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon. We had to be in the sun all the time. This is piracy. The Somali pirates have the same style of behavior.
They captured us and sent to the port of Ashdod. Later, I understood that the Israeli soldiers were shooting the whole thing on video: they picked up bottles and handed them over to us to show how humane they were. But all that was for the camera, because when they took me into custody I asked them for food and they refused to give it to me. They didn’t give me anything and left me hungry until the morning. They didn’t even bring me water. They locked us up and each time we needed to use a toilet, we had to bang on the door. First, we were locked up in terrible conditions.
Later, when we arrived in the port, the drapes were pulled down and we couldn’t see what was going on. We asked one man to tell an Israeli soldier that we wanted to meet the consuls of our respective countries. He said: “No problem.” He lied because when we arrived at the destination, there was no one there except Israeli soldiers. When we arrived, we saw a lot of Israelis dressed in uniforms of different colors. We were constantly taken somewhere: to pose for a photo, to get a medical history card or to fill in the questionnaire. And each time they subjected us to a humiliating search. That happened again and again. Four hours passed. They took each of us out individually, so we couldn’t communicate with each other.
RT: What were you asked to do after the interrogation?
YB: We were being told that we had committed a serious offence, but in fact we didn’t do anything wrong. The law was on their side and not on ours. They told us that we had provoked the soldiers, that we would face an Israeli court and that we would get long prison terms. But then they told us: “You either stay or leave. But if you want to leave, you need to put your signature here and then we are going to deport you.”
RT: What did they want you to sign?
YB: To sign a paper that we promise to leave Israeli territory by first flight.
RT: Was there any condition not to repeat what you had done?
YB: I don’t know about that.
RT: Did you know what you were signing?
RT: In what language was that document?
YB: It was in French. Even their translator who came to us said: “I am with them, not with them.” He said to me: “Here is the document, saying that you should leave.” So we solved everything. The reason for my presence here is to tell the world that France is expressing solidarity, because there they do what they like with you.
RT: Other ships are now heading to Gaza. Are you thinking of going back there or you doubt that you would?
YB: No, of course not. We don’t regret anything. But we wanted to bring home two things. On the one hand, we wanted to give the much needed aid to the Palestinians, the besieged Palestinians who are suffering from hunger and who were hurt after the terrible attack in December 2008. But on the other hand, we wanted to tell the world about the inhumane siege, which resembles a collective punishment banned by international law. Yes, we will keep sending help. Help is not a crime. Help is honor.
By Elena Becatoros and Suzan Fraser in Athens
Wednesday June 02 2010
Activists returning to Europe after Israeli forces raided their aid flotilla said last night that the commandos had beaten passengers and used electric shocks during the assault.
Six Greeks and several others, including a Turkish woman and her one-year-old baby, were released yesterday, but Israel has barred access to hundreds of other people seized during the raid that killed at least nine and wounded dozens early on Monday morning.
Most of those killed were aboard the Turkish-flagged ‘Mavi Marmara’, and there have been conflicting accounts of what happened during the assault.
Turkish activist Nilufer Cetin, who had hidden with her baby, Turker Kaan, in her cabin’s bathroom, told reporters that she believed there were 11 dead.
“The ship turned into a lake of blood,”
Ms Cetin told reporters in Istanbul, having returned after Israeli officials warned that jail would be too harsh for her child.
She said she was aware of the possible danger of joining the trip but “there are thousands of babies in Gaza. If we had reached Gaza we would have played with them and taken them food”.
She said Israeli vessels “harassed” the flotilla for two hours starting at around 10pm on Sunday, and returned at around 4am on Monday, firing warning shots and telling the ships to turn back.
“When the ‘Mavi Marmara’ continued on its course the harassment turned into an attack,” said Ms Cetin.
“They used smoke bombs followed by gas canisters. They started to descend on to the ship with helicopters.” The clashes that then erupted were “extremely bad and brutal”.
She added that the Israeli authorities had taken their telephones and laptops.
Her husband, Ekrem Cetin — the ship’s engineer — was still being held by the Israelis last night.
Some 400 Turkish activists were on the six-ship flotilla, along with more than 30 Greeks and people of some 20 other countries including Germany, the US and Russia.
The ships had been trying to break the three-year blockade of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid, the activists said.
Dimitris Gielalis, who had been aboard the ‘Sfendoni’, said the attack happened very suddenly.
“Suddenly, from everywhere we saw inflatables coming at us, and within seconds fully equipped commandos came up on the boat,”
said Mr Gielalis, one of six Greeks who was deported from Israel yesterday.
“They came up and used plastic bullets. We had beatings, we had electric shocks,” he said.
He claimed the boat’s captain was beaten for refusing to leave the wheel, while a cameraman filming the raid was hit with a rifle butt in the eye.
The returning Greeks said those still in custody were refusing to sign papers demanded by the Israeli authorities.
“During their interrogation, many of them were badly beaten in front of us,”
said Aris Papadokostopoulos, who was aboard the ‘Free Mediterranean’ that was travelling behind the ‘Mavi Marmara’.
Mr Papadokostopoulos said the flotilla was about 130 kilometres off Gaza when the raid occurred.
Aboard the other boats, he said, commandos beat activists, but nobody was gravely injured.
He said no one put up resistance on the ‘Free Mediterranean’, which was carrying a cargo of wheelchairs, building material and medical and pharmaceutical aid.
Crew member Mihalis Grigoropoulos said he was on the bridge of the ‘Free Mediterranean’ and heard shooting coming from the Turkish ship.
Several people who tried to stop the Israeli forces from getting to the bridge were hit by electric shocks and plastic bullets, he said. “We didn’t resist at all. Even if we had wanted to, what could we do?”
- Elena Becatoros and Suzan Fraser in Athens