Aircraft sent for detained activists

A group of 31 Greeks, in detention since Monday after Israeli commandos stormed six ships bound for the Gaza Strip, were expected to be back home late last night after Israel approved a request from Athens for their safe return. The Hellenic Air Force yesterday afternoon dispatched a C-130 transport aircraft from the port of Elefsina to collect the 31 Greeks, being released along with dozens of activists from other countries who were also detained by Israeli authorities following the raid on the six ships, which led to nine deaths. There were fears late yesterday that the return of the Greeks might be complicated, or at least delayed, by the fact that all 31 members of the group had refused to sign a document given to them by Israeli authorities to secure their release, complaining that the text was in Hebrew and that no translation was available. It emerged yesterday that the six Greek citizens who returned to Athens on Tuesday had been obliged to sign such a document, expressing regret for «illegally entering Israeli territory.» The raid took place well within international waters. The general secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Ioannis-Alexios Zepos, told reporters that some of the Greeks detained in Israel had been mistreated. «A number of them have protested because they were poorly treated during their arrest,» Zepos said after meeting Israel’s ambassador, Ali Yahya. «We expect the immediate release of Greek citizens… we demand that they are protected and that their health is taken care of,» Zepos added. Speaking to reporters yesterday, some of the six Greeks who returned home on Tuesday said they had not been offered any food or water during their detention. One of the six was reportedly beaten on the back and legs.