Freedom Flotilla Activists Start Open-Ended Fast; Additional 200 Passengers Join the Effort 4Jul11 July 4, 2011

Palestine News Network -   4 July 2011

Athens – PNN – On eve of US Independence Day, 12 US passengers on Freedom Flotilla bound To Gaza started on Sunday an open-ended fast at US embassy in Athens demanding their government to pressure Greece to free their boat and captain, and allow boat to sail to Gaza.

“There is a group that decided to camp outside the US embassy, we are continuing to demand our right to sail, not just for our boat but for all the boats” Robert Naiman, from the US Audacity of Hope boat, told PNN from Athens.

Audacity of Hope is part of the International Freedom Flotilla Two that is planning to set sail to the Gaza Strip to break the four year long siege Israel is imposing on the 1.5 million Palestinians living there.

The Audacity of Hope and a Canadian flagged ship taking part in the Freedom flotilla set sail to Gaza were stopped on Friday from reaching the international waters by the Greek Navy. During an interview with PNN on Friday Jane Hirschmann, one of the American boat Audacity of Hope organizers, said that the Greek authorities took the boat to a naval base outside Athens and arrested the captain of the ship.

The decision to sail on Friday came after unknown divers sabotaged two of the 10-ship flotilla as they docked in Athens.  On board the Audacity of Hope there are 36 to 40 passengers from all walks of life and about 10 media personal.

Passenger Kathy Kelly said on a statement published on Sunday at the Audacity of Hope website that “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.”

On their website the Audacity of Hope said on Sunday that “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.”

Responding to this one of the passenger taking part of the open-ended fast, Medea Benjamin, said that 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,” she added that “On July 4, it’s time for our government to declare independence from Israel and start supporting its own citizens.”

In another development a Jordanian union leader told AFP that 200 additional passengers from 20 countries will join the 300 activities of the international flotilla currently being delayed by the Greek authorities in Athens. AFP said that a boat has been purchased for USD 800,000 in Greece to carry construction materials, medical supplies, and 200 additional passengers, bringing the total number of activists in the international flotilla to 500.

The new wave of passengers is said to make up for some of the 500 Turkish aid workers who had planned to take part in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza on the Mavi Marmara ship, but were prevented from doing so when the Turkish aid organization sponsoring the ship pulled out of the trip due to unnamed ‘technical reasons’.

Mavi Marmara was attacked by the Israeli navy last year as it sailed to Gaza in international waters along with the Freedom flotilla 1. The attack left 9 aid workers killed and 54 other injured by the Israeli navy fire.

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