ATHENS, Greece (Ma'an) 2 July 2011 -- The captain of a US boat carrying activists who tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza was jailed Saturday in Athens, organizers of the flotilla said.
John Klusmer is being charged with two felonies, organizers of the boat told reporters at a news conference in the Greek capital. The investigation will begin Tuesday, they said.
Klusmer was handcuffed and jailed Saturday afternoon. He and the organizers initially understood the charges to be misdemeanors. They later discovered the charges to be felonies upon arrival at the station.
The captain’s four-member crew is being detained on the boat. While passengers are free to go, they are staying on the Audacity of Hope as a show of solidarity with their captain and crew.
US Boat to Gaza organizer Jane Hirschmann told reporters the captain was charged with disobeying a police order not to leave the port and disturbing sea traffic.
The latter charge drew laughs from reporters.
Hirschmann responded, “That’s an interesting one, isn’t it?”
Hirschmann said the second charge was the result of a complaint lodged against the US Boat to Gaza by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law center which is funded by American activist and pastor John Hagee.
Hagee is a fundamentalist Christian who operates a pro-Israel group in the US.
Hirschmann called the charges “bogus” and added that “We hope to move on this before Tuesday and try to make sure that that [our captain] gets out.”
She says the flotilla is not seeking a new captain for the Audacity of Hope.
Passengers “are very worried about the captain and feel responsible for the captain. But they’re also very determined people on the boat. They chose to stay on the ship,” Hirschmann said.
Hirschmann and other organizers said the ships that make up the flotilla would not sail alone.
When asked if the US boat had been effectively sidelined, Hirschmann responded, “We don’t know, we’re the Audacity of Hope and the audacity of hope triumphs over the audacity of violence and the audacity of threats. And our boat has not been impounded. Yet.”
Also in Athens, Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti remarked that “We consider this boat, this flotilla, one part of peaceful non-violent resistance, one part of peaceful non-violent struggle.”
He added that "this kind of struggle of the international community, joined with the Palestinian struggle -- which is going on non-violently and peacefully -- is one way of liberating Palestinians from occupation.
"It is also one way of liberating the Israeli people from the same occupation and the same apartheid because the Israelis themselves will never be free as long as the Palestinians are not free," Barghouti added.
Barghouti called on the Greek government to allow the US Boat to Gaza and all other ships to sail, adding that the flotilla and other acts of non-violent resistance that are happening in the occupied Palestinian territories resemble “the best traditions of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi.”