Detained activist on Gaza flotilla named 5Jul11 July 5, 2011

ninemsn -  5 July 2011

An Australian detained on Crete after a clash between a Gaza aid flotilla and Greek authorities has been named as Sydney man Michael Coleman.

His father, John Coleman, said Palestinian activists advised him of the arrest, which happened as the 35-year-old tried to stop coast guards from boarding the ship.

He was in a kayak at the time.

“The Greeks tried to come aboard from inflatable rubber boats and the kayaks were from the flotilla ship trying to prevent the Greeks from boarding and thus preventing the ship from leaving the port,” Mr Coleman told ABC online.

Activist Jennifer Killen added that Michael Coleman had managed to hold off the Greek officials for a while, before the ship was eventually towed back to port.

“They caught up with them and took over the ship. The soldiers boarded the ship,” she said.

Mr Coleman was one of a group of about 40 activists from Australia, Europe and Canada that set sail from Crete to deliver aid and gifts to the Gaza Strip.

But the Greek government has vowed not to let such flotillas leave its ports.

A spokesman for the ship said Mr Coleman was one of three people detained – the others being Canadians Sandra Ruch and Soha Kneen – and could now face charges.

Former NSW Greens upper house MP Sylvia Hale is still aboard the boat; she is believed to be one of three remaining Australian passengers.

She told ABC radio earlier that the activists got about eight nautical miles out to sea before they were stopped by the coastguard and towed back to port.

“There are armed soldiers on board, and at the dockside there are police cars and coastal guards,” she said.

“We are refusing to leave the boat.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is still urgently seeking confirmation of the incident.

A spokesman for DFAT on Tuesday night confirmed the arrest of a 35-year-old NSW man.

The man was arrested at Agios Nikolaos for allegedly interfering with a Greek Coast Guard vessel, the spokesman said.

Greek prosecutors have yet to make a decision whether to charge the man.

Consular staff have spoken to the man and his family in Australia and are providing consular assistance, the spokesman added.

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