NEWS

Gaza activists refuse to leave boat, slam Greek tactics

Activists who were planning to sail from Crete to Gaza with aid for Palestinians are refusing to leave the Canadian boat that the Coast Guard intercepted on Monday.

The Tahrir was stopped a few nautical miles from Crete and was escorted back to port but the activists on board, including Canadians and Australians are refusing to disembark the vessel.

?Greece has no right to hold us here,? David Heap, one of the Canada Boat to Gaza organizers, told the Globe and Mail newspaper. ?We wanted to at least show the world the Greeks are helping Israel enforce an illegal blockade of Gaza.?

Heap said that locals have expressed sympathy for the activists and have criticized Greece?s decision to block all the Gaza-bound boats leaving Greek ports. Greece has offered to transport the aid they are carrying in its own ships instead.

?It?s terribly sad,? Heap, a professor of French at the University of Western Ontario, said. ?The people here [in Crete] tell us they are ashamed of their government; some of the soldiers apologize for what they have to do to us.?

Australian authorities are investigating claims that a Sydney man, Michael Coleman, was arrested during the Coast Guard?s operation to block the Tahrir.

Coleman’s father, John, told ABC that Palestinian activists have told him his son was arrested in Crete after a clash between Greek authorities and the flotilla.

“The Greeks tried to come aboard from inflatable rubber boats and the kayaks were from the flotilla ship trying to prevent the Greeks from boarding and thus preventing the ship from leaving the port,» he said.

According to peace activist Jennifer Killen, Mr Coleman held the coastguards off for a short while.

“Then the coastguard was able to get out to sea and follow the Tahrir – the ship that has the Australians on it – they caught up with them and took over the ship, the soldiers boarded the ship,» she said.

It is believed three other Australians remain onboard the ship, including former NSW Upper House Greens MP Sylvia Hale.