Greece frees US captain of 'Audacity of Hope' flotilla ship

Free Gaza Movement vows to move on with plans to challenge blockade despite Greek resistance; Spanish activists occupy embassy in Athens.

By REUTERS
July 5, 2011 18:40
1 minute read.
Captain Klusmire of the Audacity of Hope

Flotilla Captain Klusmire 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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ATHENS - The captain of a US ship arrested for trying to sail to Gaza as part of a flotilla aiming to deliver aid to Palestinians despite a Greek ban was freed on Tuesday, but three other activists were still in custody.

Greek authorities last week banned ships destined for Gaza from leaving Greek ports to stop the latest flotilla "for their safety".

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American John Klusmire, 60, captain of the Audacity of Hope ferrying mostly US activists, was charged with breaching the Greek ban and putting lives at risk after being intercepted last week at sea by armed Greek coastguards.

"He is released, there is no charge against him. He is free to go," Adam Shapiro, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement told Reuters by telephone from the port of Piraeus. "Our destination remains the freedom of the Palestinian people."

The flotilla, carrying about 350 passengers, was supposed to be taking tens of thousands of dollars of medicines, food, gifts and building materials to Gaza.

But the chances of any of the ships arriving in Gaza were increasingly remote due to the vigilance of the Greek coastguard and the rigid enforcement of the government's ban.

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About 20 Spanish activists, from the ship "Gernika", occupied their nation's embassy in Athens on Tuesday to protest against the ban and demand their government's support.

The Greek coastguard on Monday intercepted the Canadian ship "Tahrir" which set sail for Gaza from Crete and arrested three people, including its 55-year-old Canadian owner.

A French ship which had left Corsica was waiting for the rest of the flotilla in international waters, organizers said.

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