Posts Tagged ‘ Land of the Balkans ’

Greece arrests Gaza-bound boat captain

Sunday, July 3, 2011

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities have arrested the captain of a boat that is part of a Gaza-bound flotilla trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, officials said.

The 60-year-old captain, John Klusmire, was being held at Piraeus police headquarters and will remain there until a court hearing Tuesday.

“The conditions of his detention are terrible,” vessel spokeswoman Jane Hirschmann told The Associated Press on Saturday. “There is no bed. He is sitting on a bench.” Police weren’t immediately available for comment.

Greece’s coast guard said Klusmire, captain of “The Audacity of Hope,” faces charges of trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat’s passengers. The latter charge is a felony.

The boat was carrying 36 passengers, four crew and about 10 members of the media. Its attempt to sail Friday night from the port of Perama, near Athens, was thwarted by coast guard speedboats. On the same day, Greece had announced it was banning vessels heading to Gaza from leaving Greek ports.

The “Audacity of Hope” has been moored at a Greek naval station. Its crew of four, two British and two American citizens, was forbidden to leave the boat. The British Embassy intervened and while they were then allowed to leave the boat, the crew and the passengers chose to stay on board, Hirschmann said.

“Where is the American embassy in all this?” she said, adding that U.S. authorities had not responded to passengers’ calls for assistance. The U.S. Embassy wasn’t immediately available for comment.

In Jerusalem, Israel has denied claims it sabotaged ships trying to breach its sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Activists have accused Israel of damaging two ships docked in Turkey and Greece that were part of a flotilla attempting to reach the Palestinian territory.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed the sabotage charges as “ridiculous,” calling them “sad conspiracy theories.”

Selcuk Unal, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said authorities had determined that there was no act of sabotage on an Irish vessel in the flotilla that docked in the Turkish port of Gocek on the Aegean Sea.

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza. Activists describe the blockade as a form of incarceration for the Palestinians.

Nine activists on a Turkish boat were killed last year in an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla.

In a statement, the Middle East Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia — said it remained concerned about the difficult conditions facing Palestinians in Gaza, but noted “a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials” entering Gaza over the last year.

It urged those wishing to deliver goods to Gaza to do so through “established channels,” which include Israeli and Egyptian crossings.

The Quartet “urges restraint and calls on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage additional flotillas, which risk the safety of their participants and carry the potential for escalation,” the statement said.

Christopher Torchia in Athens, Ian Deitch in Jerusalem and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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Greece bars boats leaving Greek ports for Gaza

By ELENA BECATOROS | AP
Jul 1, 2011

ATHENS: Greece on Friday banned ships heading to the Gaza Strip from leaving Greek ports, and a vessel carrying several dozen Americans which left port without permission was asked to return.

A flotilla of nine Greek and foreign-flagged vessels and several hundred activists have said they want to break Israel’s sea blockade and deliver aid to the Palestinian territory.

Greece’s Civil Protection Ministry said coast guard authorities had been ordered to take “all appropriate measures” to implement the ban. It also said the “broader maritime area of the eastern Mediterranean will be continuously monitored by electronic means for tracking, where applicable, the movements of the ships allegedly participating” in the flotilla.

Witnesses said one of the boats, dubbed the Audacity of Freedom and carrying several dozen Americans, had left port Friday afternoon. Activists said on their Twitter feed that they had been intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard.

A Greek government official said the boat had set sail without the permission required of all boats to leave port, and that the Coast Guard had asked it to return. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the situation was still evolving.

Israel has said it will thwart any effort to breach the sea blockade of Gaza, which was imposed on the Palestinian territory after Hamas overran it in 2007.

An Israeli raid on a similar flotilla last year killed nine activists on a Turkish ship and each side blamed the other for the violence.

On Thursday, an Irish ship, the MV Saoirse at the Turkish coastal town of Gocek, said it had to abandon plans to set sail because of what it called Israeli sabotage. Earlier this week, activists said Israeli agents damaged the propeller of a Swedish ship in the Greek port. Israel has refused AP requests for comment on the allegations.

Source: Arab News.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article465124.ece.

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