Last week, we reported on Greece’s determination not to allow activists to sail to the Gaza Strip from national waters, the arrest of one ship (The Audacity of Hope’s) captain and activists’ ongoing determination to set sail regardless of the restrictions placed upon them. Now, new flotilla drama has unfolded.
To begin, French pro-Palestinian activists say a pleasure craft linked to a flotilla banned from sailing from Greek ports to the Gaza Strip has left Greek waters and is on its way.
Jean-Claude Lefort, a spokesman for the group, told The Associated Press Tuesday that the “Dignite-Al Karama” left port near Athens early Monday and has reached international waters. On board are eight activists and two crew members.
Greek authorities say they are looking into the report. Joseph Dana, a correspondent with the liberal magazine “The Nation,” who has been live tweeting the entire event, however shared a tweet that claims the boat may turn back and that activists may not want to head to Gaza on their own:
In a separate incident, authorities have detained three activists attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, after a boat set sail in defiance of a Greek ban, officials and pro-Palestinian activists said Tuesday.
David Heap, a spokesman for the Tahrir, identified those detained as Canadians Sandra Ruch and Soha Kneen, and Australian Michael Coleman. The boat tried to leave the southern Greek island of Crete on Monday, but was forced to turn back by Coast Guard vessels.
The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry said one of the Canadians, who was responsible for the boat, was arrested on charges of illegally sailing without permission. The other Canadian national and the Australian were arrested for using kayaks to block a coast guard vessel from setting sail to stop the flotilla boat.
The captain of another boat in the flotilla, the Audacity of Hope, appeared in court in Piraeus Tuesday to give a deposition after being arrested over the weekend for setting sail in defiance of the Greek ban.
John Klusmire was led into the building in handcuffs, holding a bottle of water and escorted by police.
“It’s a terrible, terrible thing that the government of Greece has done. We are here in support of the captain, an honorable man and a professional sea captain,” said one campaigner, retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright, at the courthouse. “It is terrible that they feel they had to keep him in jail.”
On Monday, another Canadian ship that was trying to deliver aid to Gaza was also detained and boarded by Greek authorities. The Canadian Press has more:
The Greek coast guard has damaged a Canadian ship bound for Gaza, forcing it back to shore after ramming it against a cement pier, activists said Monday.
Activists at first believed the ship was sinking as a result of the hard landing. While it appeared the damaged ship would stay afloat, it remained confined to a Greek port late Monday after an unsuccessful attempt to reach Gaza.
The Tahrir, bearing at least 30 Canadians, left a Greek port early Monday evening local time and was boarded 15 minutes later by armed officers from the Greek coast guard.
Below, watch a video report that discusses this occurrence in detail:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.