The passengers of the ten boats of the 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotilla continued pushing back against the restrictions of the Greek government today, joined by citizens of countries around the world whose governments’ policies stand in stark contrast to the will of their peoples. Here are today’s developments:
The hearing of John Klusmire, captain of the U.S. passenger
boat Audacity of Hope, was held at 12:00 noon at a courthouse in the port of Piraeus. The captain had been charged with attempting to pilot the ship out of the harbor without the proper clearances. In a rebuke to the government, the judge dismissed all charges and immediately released Klusmire. The move was interpreted as a victory for Palestine solidarity and for the Greek institution of protecting an independent judiciary.
At 1:00 p.m. local time, the Greek Boat to Gaza group held a
press conference at the Athens Press Club. Present were Dimitris
Plionis, an organizer from the Greek group, Dr. Mattias Gardell of the partner group Swedish Boat to Gaza, Members of Parliament Tasos Kourakis and Theodoris Dritsas 2 MPs, and Green Party representative Iannis Tsironis. They denounced the government actions and policies forbidding ships of the Flotilla to leave Greek ports, effectively extending the Israeli siege of Gaza to Greek waters and outsourcing the siege of Gaza. Also attending in solidarity was MP Panagiotis Kouroublis, who had recently been expelled from the ruling PASOK Party for voting against the IMF austerity plan. He was given a standing ovation when he entered the hall.
The owners and crew of the Greek/Swedish/Norwegian passenger
boat Juliano went on board in the port of Perama near Piraeus, and attempted to take the boat to the port town of Fokia, approximately 10 km. away, where they were due to attend a welcome ceremony at the invitation of the Fokia mayor, honoring the passengers and crew. However, the port authorities prevented the boat from leaving, without citing any justification. In the meantime, two rented boats filled with journalists and supporters gathered at the port to cover the action and to demand release of the boat, and have been confronted by port police. At latest report, the standoff continues, and a crowd of people is gathering at the Perama Port Authority to demand the release of the boat.
Passengers of the Spanish boat Guernica entered the Spanish
embassy in Athens and staged a sit-in, demanding that the Spanish government intercede with Greece to release the boat. They hoisted the Palestinian flag and are currently refusing to leave until their boat is given permission to leave.
Canadian citizen Sandra Ruch remains in custody in the port
city of Aghios Nikolaos. She and one other Suha Kneen, Michael
Coleman, Australian Canadian were charged with impeding coast guard authorities by placing themselves in kayaks in front of police boats attempting to stop the Canadian boat, Tahrir from leaving Greek waters. They have been charged with interfering with law enforcement.
A small group of four Zionist demonstrators gathered at a Greek
port where one of the French boats is berthed. They shouted “Free Gilad Shalit” and carried signs. When the port police was called, the demonstrators left.
The other French passenger boat Karameh is again at sea in
international waters, awaiting the other boats in the Flotilla. After
leaving France, it proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean, where it sheltered in a safe port before returning to international waters.