[News] Paul Larudee: Account of my Capture and Imprisonment as part of the Freedom Flotilla
news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Jun 20 12:52:33 EDT 2010
Paul Larudee*: Account of my Capture and Imprisonment as part of the
Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 7:12PM
Abuse at the Hands of the Most Moral Army in the World
Sorry if this account is a bit dry. It was created for legal
purposes, but I'm not sure I'll ever get a chance to improve upon it,
so I thought I should make it available for those who might be
interested. Please note that at no time did the prison authorities
allow daily outdoor exercise, access to telephones, or access to a
lawyer. This is illegal even under Israeli law.
Initial Questionnaire for American Citizens on Gaza Flotilla Boats
Paul Wilder AKA Paul Larudee
405 Vista Heights Rd., El Cerrito, CA 94530, USA
Date of Birth
25 April, 1946
Telephone contact details
Larudee at pacbell.net
English, French, moderate German, Spanish & Arabic, some Greek
Describe what happened upon initial Israeli contact
Spotted Israeli soldiers boarding from the rear of our vessel, joined
them in going up the stairs to the upper deck. I locked arms with
other passengers to defend the wheelhouse. (See more detailed
Twisted joints, widespread contusions, hearing loss (probably
temporary), mild concussion
Medical treatment given, including location and any hospitalization
Taken to Israeli hospital, but I refused x-rays and treatment.
Forthcoming availability and willingness to give a full statement
Willing and can be available.
List confiscated equipment and any lost data, pictures, recordings,
in detail: what sort of camera, how many photos, written texts - in
what circumstances was it taken and by whom
Suitcase not yet recovered, nor hat and shoes. Suitcase had
Blackberry and Greek mobile phone inside, along with personal
belongings, medications and toiletries. These were all left behind on
the Sfendoni when I jumped overboard. In addition, the medications
that I had on my person were confiscated and the clothes that were
torn off me were not returned to me.
Passenger vessel Sfendoni, 80 miles off the coast of Gaza in the
Captain Theodoros Boukas alerts us of Israeli communications
demanding that we change course away from Gaza. He orders us all to
don life jackets.
Israeli soldiers begin boarding from the rear, head upstairs to upper
deck. I do the same. I join other passengers in blocking the
wheelhouse by locking arms and preventing entrance. Soldiers break
window(s), taser us (me twice on the left arm), throw stun grenades,
fire paint pellets, beat us with batons (or something). Two stun
grenades go off in enclosed space less two feet from my right ear,
causing pain. My left leg is struck with a baton. They pry us away
from the wheelhouse and take control, restraining us with plastic
ties on the hands. At least one of the soldiers is regularly filming
for as long as I am on board.
I slip away and hide in the space between the wheelhouse and water
tanks, where I can overhear the UHF communication from and to the
other ships. Also Israeli communication, but I don't know Hebrew.
They spot me as the sky begins to lighten, but they do nothing.
I decide to join the others and exit from my hiding area. I remove my
own handcuffs, but the soldiers want to replace them even though they
have been removed from everyone else. They order me to sit down; I
refuse. The ship's doctor (Khalid Qabbani) dresses my wounds. He
notes that my shirt has been torn for most of its length.
It is now fully light, and the soldiers have most if not all of the
passengers seated on the upper deck. They begin to take them away one
at a time for purposes unknown. I refuse and remain, but others
comply. I challenge the others to refuse, but they comply. I decide
to jump overboard in an act of defiance, to slow the progress of the
operation and to encourage others to resist. I climb over the rail
and jump into the sea. Most of the passengers as well as some of the
soldiers witness the act.
In the sea, 60 miles off the coast of Ashdod
The Sfendoni stops. After 10 minutes, an Israeli naval vessel (number
JL238 or similar) appears. One of the sailors throws a life
preserver. I ignore it. They try a grappling hook. I catch it but let
go before being pulled on board. After several tries, I attach it to
the rope ladder they have slung over the side. They then try a pole
with a hook, but I swim away. They manoeuvre the boat with side jets,
but I am able to avoid by staying close to the axis. They reverse the
boat and then come towards me, but I place myself in the path and
they stop. They prepare an inflatable Zodiac and lower it into the
water with a crew of four. The outboard gas line appears clogged, and
by that time I am much farther away. They throw a line from the
larger vessel and tow it close to me. Although the motor only works
for 10 seconds at a time, it is enough to reach me at that range.
They pull me aboard, punch me and slam my head into the rigid floor,
injuring my right eye (black eye results). They fasten my wrists and
ankles with nylon ties. They take me to the larger vessel, tie ropes
around my mid section and try to hoist me up. The ropes slip and they
grab me by the handcuffs and arms. The ties are cutting through my
wrists and it feels like my arms are separating from their sockets,
but they get me on board. At no time do I actively resist, push or strike back.
Aboard the JL238
They blindfold me, then take me to the stern of the ship, where they
seat me on some jagged material designed to provide traction for
their combat boots. They tie me to a pole behind my back, with my
hands still fastened in front of me. I am at an awkward angle,
requiring me to arch my back, and unable to change my position. I am
also getting very cold because of the wet clothes and being exposed
to the wind. I begin to shudder uncontrollably. They bring a pair of
sweatpants, tear off my own and try to put them on me, but are unable
to do so much beyond my crotch. They give me water. My rear is
exposed directly to the jagged gripping material and some sections of
skin are exposed directly to the sun. I complain. They cover some of
the exposed areas and bring the shirt matching the sweatpants to put
under my rear. They tell me that they will take me below, but only if
I agree to tell them my name and promise not to cause problems, like
jumping overboard. However they do not let me answer until later, at
which time I agree to not cause additional problems, but not to
provide any information. Finally, after 3-4 hours, they take me
below, where they feed me a sandwich and allow me to wear the
sweatshirt matching the pants. As we reach Ashdod, I ask to use the
toilet. They refuse several times, until I threaten to go without a
toilet. They relent. Soon after, we arrive at the port. They remove
my leg shackles.
Processing center, port of Ashdod
Around a half dozen officers, presumably from the prison service, are
there to meet me upon arrival at the port. I collapse at the dock,
refusing to speak, move or otherwise participate in my capture. The
officers try to force me to walk by stressing my shoulder, elbow and
wrist joints, to no effect except to cause me to scream in pain. They
carry me roughly to the processing stations, but soon call for a
stretcher, to which they strap me. Much of this appears to be filmed
with several cameras, which I assume to be news media. I see a number
of other passengers, many of them from the Sfendoni. I am transferred
to a gurney, placed into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.
At the hospital, they transfer me from the gurney to a hospital bed,
banging my backbone against the bed rail. They look at my wounds and
ask where I hurt. I do not respond. They assume that my name is Paul
Wilder from the name in my passport, which is in their possession. I
am taken for x-ray, but refuse to cooperate. I ask for aspirin, but
they refuse and say they will send me back to the processing center.
I point out that the sweatpants that were given to me on the boat now
have a large tear in the crotch area and that I need a new pair. They
refuse and say that a new pair will be given to me at the processing
center. I see Sfendoni captain Theodoros Boukas at the hospital with
an ear injury, but they don't allow him to talk to me. I ask to use
the restroom, but they say I will have to wait. I ask several more
times, then announce that I will use the bed as a toilet. They make a
real toilet available. At some point, metal handcuffs with hinge
joints are placed on me. They are used to stress my wrists while
transporting me to the processing center.
Ashdod processing center
When we arrive at the processing center, several officers carry me
while stressing my hands and legs, suspending me from the metal
handcuffs, and then place me in a wheelchair. The officers take me to
several stations, where I am photographed and fingerprinted,
passively, but without my cooperation. Most of the other Sfendoni
passengers appear to be gone. I ask for a new pair of pants, but
nothing happens. Passengers continue to be processed, but I recognize
few of them. They are probably mostly Turks from the Mavi Marmara. I
see Dr. Evangelos Pissias, head of the Greek delegation. He tells me
that there were shootings and dead aboard the Mavi Marmara, but no
details or confirmation. After at least an hour, I stand and demand a
new pair of pants, demonstrating the problem of the wide open crotch
area. Two passengers intervene and argue on my behalf. The officers
get angry and speak in Hebrew. Approximately ten officers grab me and
take me to the other end of the room, where they drop me to the
floor, beat me, slam my head against the concrete floor and kick me
in the head and midsection. I scream. Pissias comes to my defense and
is beaten. I learn later that he suffers a broken leg and at least
one broken rib. After they finish, I shout appreciation for the most
moral army in the world and continue to demand a pair of pants in a
loud voice. They place me in a prison van. I wait and then Captain
Theodoros Boukas joins me. The van leaves.
Givon prison, hospital ward, Ramle
At the hospital ward of the prison, Boukas and I are issued hospital
clothes and are processed. We are given a physical examination. My
blood sugar is tested and I receive diabetes medication. A "social
worker" calling himself Amit asks why I came to Israel. I respond
that I was kidnapped and a victim of human trafficking across
international borders, and that I would like to cooperate in the
prosecution of the party that kidnapped me, i.e. the Israeli navy.
Our room is in a special high security section that has only two
cells. The television has been removed. We ask to see our lawyer and
diplomatic missions. They say that this will be taken care of the
next day. We ask to use the telephone. They refuse. I ask why
everyone else has a television except us. They say that they have
instructions that we are a special case. I ask for paper and pencil.
They say that this is reasonable, but they do not bring it. We eat
and shower, then sleep.
Givon prison, Ramle
We are taken from the room, with our belongings. We receive some
medication and a medical discharge. Our hands and ankles are
shackled. We are placed in a security vehicle and driven a short
distance to the main prison. Our belongings are inventoried and we
are given a receipt, except for my torn clothes, which they say they
will destroy. I refuse. They say they will ask me before destroying
my clothes. I ask for a receipt. They refuse. They issue me some
clothes, but Boukas is allowed to wear his own clothes.
We are placed in what appears to be a holding cell, near the
processing area. It has no window and no fresh air. I ask to see a
representative from my embassy. They say that my embassy will be
notified. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse.
I ask for a cell with a window. They refuse. I say that I will refuse
food, water and medicine until we have improved accommodation.
We are moved to a cell with window. The entire wing of the prison is
empty of prisoners except for Boukas and me. The televisions have
been removed. I ask for paper and pencil. They refuse. I ask to see
the representative of my embassy. They say that my embassy has been
notified. We both ask to use the telephone. They refuse. At no time
are we permitted to go outside for exercise and fresh air. We are not
in contact with any other prisoners, although we can see some through
the glass of a door separating their section of the prison from ours.
Givon prison, Ramle
I ask when I will see my embassy representative. They say they don't
know. I ask for my lawyer. They refuse. I ask to use the telephone.
They refuse. I ask for pencil and paper. They refuse.
I announce that I will go on a hunger and medication strike until I
see my embassy representative. They say that he will be there in the afternoon.
The prison director says that the U.S. consul general has come to see
me. He asks my to put on a shirt over my undershirt. I refuse. He
says that it is prison regulations and that he will not allow me to
see the consul general without the shirt. I tell him that I know he
wants to cover the marks of the beatings, but I want everyone to see
them. He gets angry, but allows me to see the consul general.
I meet with the Consul General, Andrew Parker. He says that he
brought reading material but that the prison authorities are refusing
to allow me to have them. He is unable to provide me with pen and
paper. I inform him of the beatings and other treatment, and
authorize him to share all the information with anyone who wants it.
He says he will call my wife as soon as he leaves the prison. I ask
him to tell her to call my member of Congress, George Miller. He
tells me that I am the last of nine Americans that he has visited,
and that he had a hard time finding me. The others were at the prison
in Bir el-Saba ("Beersheva"). I ask him to contact a lawyer for me.
He says he cannot do that, but provides me with a list of lawyers and
information about Israeli legal procedures. The prison authorities
allow me to have the information. It is paper, but no pencil. I ask
him to tell my wife to contact a lawyer for me.
I ask to see a lawyer. They say we will be leaving before a lawyer
can do anything. I say I want a lawyer, anyway. They say that it will
be taken care of tomorrow. I ask to use the telephone. They refuse.
Givon prison, Ramle
Boukas and I are moved to another cell, which has one prisoner in it,
a one-armed Yemeni businessman named Abdulhakim. He was on the Mavi
Marmara and confirms the earlier reports of shooting and deaths. He
was brought to the prison with others, including Turks, from the Mavi
Marmara, who are in adjacent cells.
The guards tell the three of us to gather our belongings because we
are going to be moved to another prison. However, almost as soon as
we do so, a representative from the Greek embassy arrives to talk to
Boukas. When he returns, he has a pen and paper for me. He says that
all the other Greeks are at the prison in Bir el-Saba.
The prison director announces that we will be taken to the airport to
leave the country. He says that it is required for me to wear a shirt
over my undershirt in order to exit the cell. I refuse. He says that
I will stay in prison if I don't wear the shirt. I say I want to talk
to my lawyer. He asks me the name of my lawyer. I say Gaby Lasky, and
that if she is not available, I will talk to Lea Tsemel, and if not
her then Michael Sfard, and if not Sfard then Yael Berda. He finally
relents and lets me leave in my undershirt.
They handcuff us. Our possessions are returned to us except for my
medications and torn clothes. I insist on having them returned. They
say they have no knowledge of my torn clothes. I remind them of what
happened. They say that they have no idea where they are. I refuse to
leave. They try to force me. I do nonviolent resistance. They
pressure my arm joints and lift me by the handcuffs. I scream. They
shout. They say that the clothes are in the van and that I will see
them when I go there. I say I will not leave unless I see them first.
They bring the clothes. I go to the van, but they do not give me the
clothes. They force me into the van. The woman guard in the front
seat keeps the orange bag with my torn clothes and promises to give
them to me at the airport. Boukas and I are in one section of the
prison vehicle on the way to the airport; Abdulhakim, a Turkish
professor named Ibrahim and one or two other Turks are in the other
section of the van. There are several other vehicles transporting
other passengers who were imprisoned.
Lid ("Ben-Gurion") Airport.
We wait for about two hours in the van at the airport before
entering. The guard does not give me my torn clothes. I am taken to a
room that has around ten Flotilla passengers for processing. I know
some of them. They provide more information about what happened on
the Mavi Marmara. One of them has the telephone number of my lawyer,
Gaby Lasky, and gives it to me. The officers tell me that I will be
put on an airplane to Istanbul. They ask me to sign a paper. I refuse
to sign the paper and to go anywhere without first talking to my
lawyer. They say that I will not be allowed to leave without signing
it. I still refuse, and say that I don't want to leave without
talking to my lawyer, anyway. They say that I will be taken back to
prison and that I will not be permitted to see a lawyer for several days.
The Greek nationals tell me that their government will send an
airplane to take them to Greece, and they persuade me to go with
them. They say that they have talked to a lawyer and that I will not
have to sign anything. We are taken to an exit where several groups
of Greeks are taken by bus. Only a few of us remain to be picked up.
An officer asks me to come with him back through the passport control
area. I comply, thinking that this is part of the processing to put
me on the Greek aircraft. They take me to an area that has 30-35
passengers seated in several rows, being processed. I recognize some
of them, including Nabil Hallak, Abbas Nasser and Ken O'Keefe. They
tell me that I need to sign a form and then I will be sent to
Istanbul. I tell them that I am not going to Istanbul and that
arrangements have been made for me to go on the Greek transport to
Athens. They say that this will not be permitted and that I have no
choice. I tell them that I have the choice not to sign the form and
that even if they force me on the Turkish transport, I will remove my
clothes and they will refuse to take me. They tell me that in that
case they will take me to prison again. I tell them that I also will
not go willingly to prison, and I collapse on the floor. Four or five
of them lift me by the metal handcuffs, cutting into the wounds that
already exist and causing sharp pain. Others stress the joints in my
arms and legs. I scream while being carried away. They start beating
me. The other passengers begin shouting and fighting with the
officers. I am dropped on the floor, where I hear the commotion
behind me, but am in too much pain to do anything. 5-6 officers carry
a struggling man to the wall opposite me, drop him on the floor, then
beat him and kick him. It seems to me that he must have broken bones.
After the noise dies down, they come back for me. They carry me as
before, by the metal handcuffs and legs, stressing my joints. One
officer hits me several times on the left side of my face. I
challenge him to do it again. He does. I tell him it's not enough,
and that perhaps he should try shooting me in the head, and that he's
not very good at torturing a 64-year-old man. They bounce my head off
the marble floor, then carry me down the stairs to the place where
the busses pick us up. The Greek friends who had been awaiting
transport when I was taken away are still there.
The Greek friend, Dimitris Plionis, who has been acting as liaison,
comes for me and apologizes that he didn't stay with me. We wait for
the documents of the other Greeks to be completed. In the meantime,
other passengers, mostly apparently Turk, come individually to board
another transport. Many of them were apparently part of the fighting
on my behalf, and are bearing the wounds. We exchange solidarity
words and gestures. The passenger who had been beaten in front of me
is carried down by two others. He is obviously in great pain,
probably broken ribs and limbs. Ken O'Keefe comes down, his face
covered in blood and a split in his forehead. I thank him for his
defence of me and ask about his family. He says he plans to reject
deportation and fight the case in the courts. I give him the name and
number of my lawyer, Gaby Lasky. We all finally leave on a bus, including Ken.
The bus takes us to the Lid Immigration Detention Center, where the
rest of the Greeks are awaiting transport. It is a place I recognize
from a two week stay in 2006. I am surprised to discover Gaby Lasky
there. We talk and I sign some papers for her to help with charges
being filed against Israeli government agencies and persons. I
introduce her to Ken. The Greek Ambassador meets with the Greek citizens.
We are taken to the transport aircraft. After a long wait, apparently
due in part to a discrepancy over my name, the plane leaves for Athens.
*Dr. Paul Larudee (born April 25th, 1946) is a San Francisco Bay Area
human rights advocate for justice in the region known as Palestine,
which includes Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
He works with the International Solidarity Movement and the Free
Palestine Movement, and was cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement.
Article originally appeared on Gilad Atzmon (http://www.gilad.co.uk/).
See website for complete article licensing information.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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