A release from the US Boat to Gaza:
Members of the U.S. Boat to Gaza have begun an open-ended fast calling
on the U.S. government to defend our right to sail out of Greece. The
fast has begun in front of the U.S. Embassy at 91 Vasilisis Sophias
Avenue in Athens. Fasters delivered an urgent letter to the Embassy
and plan to sleep overnight outside the Embassy gates.
Passengers and U.S. boat organizers participating in the fast are:
Medea Benjamin, Ken Mayers, Paki Wieland, Kathy Kelly, Ray McGovern,
Helaine Meisler, Nic Abramson, and Carol Murry.
Passenger Kathy Kelly said, “We call on officials at the U.S. Embassy
in Athens to publicly acknowledge our right to sail and to call on the
Greek government to free our ship and its captain immediately.”
There will also be a march in support of the flotilla beginning at 7
pm organized by Greek activists who have been protesting the
government’s austerity measures in Syntagma Square. The march will
include a demand on the Greek government to let all of the boats in
the Freedom Flotilla 2 sail to Gaza and to free the captain of the
U.S. ship, who has been held in jail.
The departure of the U.S. Boat to Gaza - The Audacity of Hope - was
first delayed by a complaint filed by the Israel Law Center and shown
to be frivolous. Greek authorities then inspected the boat but, until
the boat set sail five days later, the results of that inspection has
not been shared with the captain and his crew.
The Greek Coast Guard stopped The Audacity of Hope some 20 minutes
after it had left the dock on Friday, July 1. The Coast Guard ordered
the captain to stop the ship, which he did. Commandos with drawn
rifles ordered the ship to return. It is now impounded at a military
dock in Athens and the captain has ben arrested.
Over the past two weeks, two boats of the international flotilla to
Gaza have been sabotaged while docked at Greek ports. The potential
danger to the U.S. boat was obvious to the captain, the crew and the
passengers: there was a clear possibility that the U.S. boat would be
Greek consular officials in the United States, when besieged with
calls by angry Americans, told callers that they should direct their
protest to U.S. officials because they were ultimately responsible.
“We know that the U.S. government has been supporting Israel’s
underhanded efforts to thwart the flotilla, and has been pressuring
the Greek government to stop us. This is a disgrace,” said
passenger/faster Medea Benjamin. “On July 4, it’s time for our
government to declare independence from Israel and start supporting
its own citizens.”
We note that on June 24, passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza visited
the Consul General in Athens, Deputy Consul General Kate Brandeis
agreed that the U.S. Boat “had a right to sail to Gaza.”
Ms. Brandeis assured the passengers that the consulate was there to
assist U.S. citizens that run into difficulty while in Greece. To
date, we have received no assistance from the U.S. Embassy and the
captain of our boat, a U.S. citizen, remains in jail and has yet to be
visited by anyone from the U.S. Embassy.