Sunday, July 3, 2011

Greece arrests Freedom Flotilla captain

The Gaza-bound ship The Audacity of Hope was escorted by a Greek coast guard ship to the port of Perama, near Athens, on July 1.

Source: Press TV

The Greek authorities have arrested the captain of a US-flagged ship planning to sail to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Greece's coast guard said on Saturday that the captain of The Audacity of Hope, 60-year-old John Klusmire, was detained for attempting to cast off without permission, AP reported.

Klusmire is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

Greece has banned all the ships that are part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II, which seeks to break the siege of the coastal strip, from leaving its ports.

Jane Hirschmann, one of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II organizers, said, “They're making an example of our captain to stop other boats in the flotilla from trying to sail."

Several US activists, who were on the ship, said on Friday that they were intercepted by the Greek coast guard just moments after they left Perama port near Athens.

Greece's Civil Protection Ministry said that the coast guard had been ordered to take “all appropriate measures” to bar Gaza-bound ships from leaving Greece's ports.

Greece has recently expanded its relations with Israel, and the two countries are currently holding preliminary talks on potential energy deals. Greece's cash-strapped government is also currently seeking additional sources of overseas investment, possibly including Israel, to offset its financial crisis.

Israel's security cabinet has ordered the Israeli navy to use all possible means to prevent the incoming international aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip, but the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II organizers insist that they will push ahead with their aid mission.

Some 1.5 million residents of Gaza are being denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement, the right to a decent standard of living, and proper employment, healthcare, and education.

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