The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A US Coast Guard report reveals that part of the basis of a Mavi Marmara-related lawsuit in California against former defense minister Ehud Barak is fabricated, according to NGO Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center.
The NGO obtained the information from the US Coast Guard and the US Department of Homeland Security as part of a Freedom of Information request.
In October, relatives of a US citizen who was among those killed fighting Israel Navy commandos in the 2010 Turkish-led attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza filed a civil wrongful-death lawsuit in California against Barak under the Alien Tort Claims, Torture Prevention and Anti-Terrorist acts.
Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old dual Turkish-US citizen, was shot five times aboard the Mavi Marmara, according to his lawyers, who served the complaint to Barak during a US visit in October.
Part of the lawsuit against Barak involves four anti-Israel activists – three Americans and a Belgian – who were aboard a second boat in the flotilla, the US-flagged Challenger I, seeking damages for injuries they say they sustained during the altercations with the IDF.
The activists claim that they were shot with rubber bullets, tasered and handcuffed by the IDF while aboard the Challenger I. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that the IDF breached US sovereignty since the plaintiffs incurred their alleged injuries on a US-flagged ship.
However, in a first disclosure, the US Coast Guard and Homeland Security report reveals that the Challenger I in fact “never made contact with the Israelis” after it “experienced steering casualties” and was forced to “seek refuge in a Cyprus port.”
The report continues that the “Greek side of Cyprus denied the Challenger I request to enter port. Therefore it sailed to the Port of Famagusta on the Turkish side of the island,” and hoped to “rejoin the Freedom Flotilla at the next opportunity,” which did not occur until after the altercation with the IDF.
Shurat Hadin also said, “Not only was the US registration for the vessel obtained via duplicitous means, but according to the US Coast Guard report, the Challenger I was actually a Greek ship that was re-flagged as an American vessel in international waters, having never docked at a US port.”
According to the documents obtained, the Challenger I was originally a Greek vessel called the Golden Flame, purchased in Piraeus on February 24, 2010.
Shurat Hadin’s analysis of the documents indicates that the buyers, whose names are blacked-out in the report, were anti-Israel activists.
It also indicated from the documents that “the Golden Flame was deleted from the Greek Ship Register on March 23, 2010, and then registered as an American ship less than a month before participating in the flotilla.”
Shurat Hadin continued that “the vessel was registered in Delaware on April 1, 2010, to a front company called Western Mediterranean Trips (WMT) LLC and given the name Challenger I. The signature on the Challenger I’s registration documents belongs to Renee Bowyer, an Australian schoolteacher and founder of the Free Gaza Movement.
According to Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, director of Shurat Hadin, “This lawsuit is nothing more than a hollow attempt to vilify the State of Israel. The plaintiffs’ entire case is based upon false allegations and fraudulent evidence. The facts uncovered in the US Coast Guard documents prove conclusively that the lawsuit filed by pro-Palestinian activists against Israel is totally frivolous.”