[News] Paul Larudee: Account of my Capture and Imprisonment as part of the Freedom Flotilla

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Jun 20 12:52:33 EDT 2010

Paul Larudee*: Account of my Capture and Imprisonment as part of the 
Freedom Flotilla
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


Passport number

Telephone contact details

Larudee at pacbell.net

Languages spoken
English, French, moderate German, Spanish & Arabic, some Greek

Piano technician

Vessel Name

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 
description below.)

Injuries sustained
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 
Eastern Mediterranean

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.

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