When Israel’s navy captures the Gaza solidarity fleet, our reporter on the spot. On the “Eleftheri Mesogeios” he witnessed how the elite unit climbs on board and approaching with drawn weapons on civilians. An eye-witness account of Mario Damolin.
06th Juni 2010 June 2010
For four days, my colleague Marcello Faraggi and I on board the “Eleftheri Mesogeios” (Free Mediterranean). W. We have decided, at the stop in Rhodes from pure passenger vessel “Sfendoni” to move here because the freigh that has on board, what is it really – supplies for Gaza: 1400 tons of parts for a hundred prefabricated houses from wood, tile, two Container water treatment plants, hundreds of electric wheelchairs, drugs. We both have small HD cameras here.
Yesterday, early evening, is a writer Henning Mankell come together with the Swedish doctor Viktoria sand and the parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan of the Swedish Open on board. “. The “Eleftheri Mesogeios” is the result of a Swedish-Greek alliance, called “ship-to-Gaza”. In both countries, money for the purchase of the freighter and its cargo has been collected, the Greek crew was taken over. Mankell intended to be a celebrity as a parliamentarian and chaplain to give the ship some protection. “Chef de Mission” is the 63-year-old professor of water engineering at the Technical University of Athens, Vangelis Pissias. Total now 29 people are on board.
About noon General Assembly on deck.. Vangelis Pissias will discuss the strategy for the next day when you expect an attack by the Israeli navy. Pissias is gray-haired, gray beard, thin, as if from a film by Costa-Gavras, with a gentle melancholy in some weather-beaten face. He is revered by his mostly younger riders almost Greek: a socialist, old school, in times of Greek fascism in the background, since that time a friend of President Karolos Papoulias, the company also supports this.
Henning Mankell is a little uneasy
There are fast line: You want to make any physical resistance. It is thought that the freighter be consistent with the relief supplies in the center of Israel’s interest. Dror Feiler, 58 years old, musician, composer and artist, says that the Israelis would hardly dare to attack a passenger ship like the “Mavi Marmara” Muslims with 500 on board. Feiler is something of a spokesman for the Swedish group on board, always ready for a fun, quick-witted. He comes from a Jewish family, was born in Tel Aviv and had three years to do with the Israeli paratroopers until he refused to be one of the first soldiers in the occupied territories. He then emigrated to Sweden. „ “I know the army, which will most likely do not enter such a venture. Finally, the Turks still something of an ally, “said Feiler. Yesterday he was standing in the middle of the cargo deck on his saxophone with Überblastönen and Hanns Eisler’s songs frenetically the merger of the celebrated Freedom Flotilla “, now he looks thoughtful.
The round of the Masters decided to drive after dark in formation: at the head of the “Mavi Marmara”, then, slightly to the side, we are, behind us the “Sfendoni”, then the two Turkish freighter and in between the small American Challenger II. The pace is determined by us, because we have the weakest machine: We make an average of 7.5 knots. We agree, we gather in the event of ENTER on the bridge and defend the pilot house by our presence as long as possible.Marcello Faraggi and I are to the side of the cab on the small terraces get enough space to make perfect shots can. Finally, still divided guards.
Pissias and his colleagues have prepared a small hurdle for any attacker: razor wire, they draw now, just before dark, at the railing around the ship. The 30-year-old Athens Evyenia operation, which has followed her boyfriend on the ship, and Naim, the exiled Egyptians with a Greek passport, prepare dinner in the small kitchen. Then, from ten clock is coffee to the guards, and all those who sleep not provided. The Greek journalist Maria has bonded with adhesive tape on their jacket very large “Press”. We do the same.
At midnight I took up my three-hour guard. Henning Mankell is on my front side toward the bow, he is somewhat uneasy. Most can not sleep, across the deck are small groups, talking, smoking a lot and laugh. In the darkness you can see off a clock lights that accompany us. It is full moon shines the Mediterranean matt black. It is strangely quiet. I go get a coffee, set my camera, spare battery, spare chip, microphone and put myself as agreed at the left side of the ship’s bridge. Pissias is the master, he has tired eyes.
Shortly after four clock: helicopter noise. From the darkness come from behind more than half a dozen small speedboats, each with about a dozen crew members. They rush past us as if there is no us. . Front left the “Marmara” – this is obviously their goal. . The helicopter begins to circle, pursued by bright search lights, which are of the “Marmara” on him. The ship is only in the lower part lit properly, where the cabins are, above it is quite dark. The speedboats orbiting “Marmara” in rapid speed. A little further on is an Israeli frigate – apparently the command center and home station of the speedboats. Pissias comes for a moment out of the cab and said shortly: “You are crazy!” We all put on our jackets.
Ansagen, Befehle, Durcheinander Announcements, instructions, confusion
All have gathered on the ship’s bridge. The Israelis are digging up carefully. The second memory I’ll take out as they enter the lower part of the bridge.
With guns drawn they go on unarmed civilians.
Who does not vary, such as the large, comfortable Michalis, a 65-year-old small business, is cleared to shortest distance from the road. Michalis falls as if struck by lightning at my side when he was a soldier No. 14 – all have numbers – from ten centimeters away with the stun gun.
The same Soldier hits me in the chest and wants to tear the camera out of his hand. I I think initially against it, then let go to me not to let the hand break, and will paid down. Although I have several times pointing out that I’m from the press and show my ID card.
Pissias do not want to hand over the control in the driver’s that simple. He holds himself is beaten and kicked, limping and bleeding on the foot. Gradually we all are brought down and crammed into two benches. Mankell is trembling with rage and impotence, mutters to himself. We will now issue our passports. Some Greeks refuse to be dragged and brutally by soldiers on the deck – on sharp iron stairs, metal pipes and nozzles. . Mehmet Kaplan, the Swedish parliament, protested, referring to his immunity, but the Marines did not know that word probably. Dror Feiler, a born Jew with a Swedish passport, comes from the captain’s cabin with a bleeding ear.
Our invaders are all young people, probably 19 to 25. You are masked, helmeted and for the military Outsider Thus armed, as if they wanted to win the third world war. In many eyes is sheer terror, mixed with a determination to be ready for anything.. Any wrong move can be dangerous, so do the Greeks noticed the impulsive and provoke with words alone.
About eight clock, the sun beats down on the deck, after brief negotiations will allow us to feed a plastic sheet. Water and food are offered to us. We reject it. Only a Greek sandwich takes the proffered – and throws it, spiced with a scornful remark into the sea. I wonder how do I secure my shots. Since I expect to be frisked as film-saving particularly journalist, I ask Henning Mankell. As a celebrity he would probably felted less. Mankell nods, takes the two chips and puts it in his pocket. Two hours later he says that now everything was quiet, and she pushes me down again. Victorian sand, the Swedish doctor, took his place – successfully, as it turned out later.
Soldier No. 23 is the stumbling block on the ship. SShe brings in the Greeks to high temperature. At intervals, at least five times, she comes with her small, private movie camera around the corner and wants to film the group. A great outcry begins. The soldiers should note that this is not allowed under international rules. They care little. Dror Feiler, the Jewish Swede, is for the soldiers of a double offense: first, his impudent flap, secondly, he understands everything they say and translate it promptly.
Suddenly, excitement: A soldier comes running to head the brigade and shows him, trembling with indignation, what he has just found dangerous: two large fruit knife. An arms find! . Loud laughter, even Mankell can not resist a grin.
Henning Mankell is free sooner
More than ten hour drive in the heat, then arrival at the Israeli port of Ashdod. We will first locked down in the small cabins. I must be the first to step up from the ship and see myself from a lot vielhundertfachen. Countless press photographers, TV crews, soldiers, policemen. W We will be presented to the Israeli public. Single.
Right at the quay: a huge tent wing, extra set up. A young officer pulls me by the arm to the first table. A form is submitted to me. I’m supposed to sign that I’m illegally and will be deported. Otherwise, I would come into prison and have to face a trial. I refuse to sign. A translator will be appointed, because I claimed to understand no English. An elderly man with a beard and tipping is a friendly next to me and tried in a mixture of Yiddish and Hebrew to formulate German. I say, I was kidnapped as a reporter. He: “Jo, jo kidnappers.” And he laughs heartily. A medical examination I reject and will then lead to the body search. Access from the whole body, I need to undress down to his underpants. As I step out of the study area, I see how the American piano tuner Paul is on the harbor floor, two men hold him. Then they drag him to a wheelchair. The way I learn that Paul should have jumped into the water, now he is regarded as particularly dangerous.
A young Israeli official told me that there had been on the “Marmara” sixteen dead: ten passengers and six Israelis. And looks at me and accusing it of significance. Another officer asks me where I came from. Germany? He turns in disgust from his face as he stood over a Nazi criminal. Henning Mankell I look at a special table to sit, he is negotiating with several civil-dressed men. He will be freed sooner than all of us. At the back door of the tent city waiting for a barred, darkened prison van on us. Time and again we are photographed and filmed. All calls and demands that to let it be acknowledged with a laugh. In prison vans, it is very hot and stuffy. Ask Only after half an hour, the door is left open, one of the policemen is very courteous and distributed water. Vangelis Pissias angehumpelt comes, he is in pain, his face is sunken. . As he sits in this ancient prison vans, he reminded twice to Costa-Gavras.
Finally, the car drives off, it’s already dark. We will put in a prison. Where this is how it is, how long should be the will not tell us.
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.
“I felt that I needed to do non-violent resistance. That consisted of not following orders, not walking to the places that they wanted me to walk, they were forced into carrying me for example, but, they thought they could get me to do what they wanted me to do by applying pain and they beat me, essentially, six times in two and a half days.”
(06-03) 14:52 PDT OAKLAND — Gene St. Onge, an Oakland structural engineer who boarded a ship for Gaza in hopes of delivering aid but was intercepted by Israeli forces instead, expects to return to his Montclair home today.
He’ll bring home a nasty chest cold that he caught while imprisoned, a cut on his forehead from a scrap with Israeli soldiers, and the memory of his friend and fellow Bay Area activist Paul Larudee, 64, leaping overboard as a form of protest.
It may be a while before St. Onge returns to the Mediterranean.
“I’m anxious to get home,” St. Onge said Thursday from his hotel room in Istanbul. “I’ve got a struggling business to tend to.”
St. Onge, 63, was one of five Bay Area residents on the Gaza-bound flotilla that ignited an international controversy after Israeli commandos intercepted the ships loaded with thousands of tons of aid. The Israeli government said nine people were killed and dozens more injured. Activists have said as many as 12 were killed.
St. Onge, sounding weary but relieved, gave a firsthand account of the confusion early Monday as soldiers boarded the Sfendoni, a 54-passenger craft that was one of six ships in the flotilla. The ship also carried Larudee, an El Cerrito resident who co-founded the Free Palestine Movement, a main sponsor of the effort.
St. Onge was scheduled to meet with Gazan engineers to develop new ways to build homes with the region’s limited resources. Israel restricts cement and steel deliveries into Gaza, St. Onge said.
He said that when the Sfendoni set sail from Greece, passengers expected a confrontation with the Israeli navy and had trained in nonviolent resistance. “We prepared for the worst,” he said.
It was the first time St. Onge had joined Larudee on a Gaza mission. Larudee had overseen eight other voyages since 2008: Four reached land, and Israelis turned away the other four.
St. Onge said a soldier tossed a flash-bomb that exploded next to Larudee as the Israeli commandos stormed the ship, possibly puncturing Larudee’s eardrum.
St. Onge said he suffered a gash to his forehead while trying to play peacemaker in a scuffle between soldiers and another passenger.
As soldiers gave orders, St. Onge said, Larudee
“resisted at every point. If they told Paul to sit, he’d stand. If they told him to stand, he’d sit.”
He said Larudee was not ordinarily defiant, and speculated that “it was all getting to Paul and he was starting to lose it.”
The soldiers tied Larudee’s feet and hands with plastic bindings, St. Onge said, and placed him in a chair on the ship’s deck.
After activists complained that Larudee was losing circulation, soldiers cut the ties, St. Onge said.
“He just kind of slouched in his chair and seemed to calm down,”
Yet moments later, as soldiers directed their attention to another passenger, Larudee jumped overboard, St. Onge said.
“That was the lst time I saw him.”
The Larudee family in El Cerrito said it took an hour and half for soldiers to pluck him from the Mediterranean.
Larudee’s injuries have become the subject of scrutiny by his family and supporters of the Free Palestine Movement, who say he was beaten by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli government confirmed Larudee received medical treatment, but did not know the extent of his injuries or how he suffered them.
Attempts to reach Larudee, who is staying in Athens, were unsuccessful.
Once on land, St. Onge was interrogated by immigration officers. He surmised they were trying to determine whether he was connected to a terrorist network.
St. Onge spent two nights in a four-man cell, subsisting on portions of bell peppers, yogurt, apricots and hummus, before being deported. He contracted a chest cold.
After his deportation, St. Onge learned about Larudee’s condition and the claims that he’d suffered beatings.
“I don’t know what it gained,” St. Onge said of Larudee jumping overboard. “If it concentrated more attention on just how the Israeli soldiers acted, maybe it was worthwhile. Otherwise, I questioned it, for his own well-being. I still have mixed feelings about it.”
Three other Bay Area activists detained on the flotilla also are en route home, according to family members: Oakland resident Janet Kobren, 67, a co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement; Kathy Sheetz, 63, a retired nurse from Richmond; and Iara Lee, 47, a San Francisco filmmaker.
St. Onge said his luggage was confiscated and he was released with only the clothes on his back, his passport and his wallet. When he landed in Istanbul, he bought new clothing and a razor.
He began to consider the work that awaited his engineering firm.
“I’m starting to feel closer to my usual self,” he said.
E-mail Justin Berton at email@example.com.
(06-02) 17:08 PDT EL CERRITO — An El Cerrito activist injured after being detained by Israeli forces who raided a Gazan aid flotilla arrived in Greece today.
Paul Larudee, 64, a retired linguistics professor who now works as a piano tuner, initially refused treatment by Israeli medics after he and 678 other activists were detained early Monday, according to his family and Israeli officials in San Francisco.
His wife, Betty Larudee, said she talked to her husband moments after he landed at a Greek military airport near Athens.
She said she had been told by U.S. Embassy official Andrew Parker that her husband, a co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement, suffered several injuries while in detention. Efforts to contact Parker, the consul general in Tel Aviv, were unsuccessful.
When she talked to him by phone Thursday night, he told her he jumped into the water with a life raft and when the Israeli officers plucked him from the water,
“They were so mad, they beat him down to hell.”
A spokesman at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco confirmed that Larudee had required medical attention. He said he did not know the extent of the injuries or how Larudee had suffered them.
Betty Larudee said her husband would recuperate in Greece before flying home sometime near the end of next week.
“I’m elated,” she said. “Paul’s lawyer saw him and said he managed a smile, but it looks like he’ll rest in Greece for a few days.”
Larudee was among five Bay Area residents detained as the flotilla tried to deliver thousands of tons of aid to Gaza. The detentions, and the deaths of nine activists, prompted international protests.
The other four Bay Area activists also appear to be en route to the United States after being deported, Israeli officials said.
Jan St. Onge, wife of Oakland resident Gene St. Onge, 63, said her husband and Janet Kobren, 67, also of Oakland, had tickets to board flights to Turkey this morning.
Steve Greaves, partner of Richmond resident Kathy Sheetz, 63, said he had not received direct word on her status but that it appeared she had been released.
Iara Lee, a San Francisco filmmaker, also was deported, Israeli officials said.
E-mail Justin Berton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page A – 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle