US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope' 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Greek port authorities on Saturday arrested the
60-year-old captain of the US-flagged vessel Audacity of Hope, one of
the ships participating in the Gaza-bound flotilla.
The American skipper was being held at Piraeus police headquarters and he will remain in custody until a court hearing Tuesday.
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The Greek Coast Guard intercepted the boat
carrying US activists soon after they set sail from Greece on Friday to
join a pro-Palestinian flotilla to Gaza, activists said.
Late Friday evening, the
US boat turned back to a
Greek port after it was intercepted by Greek commandos earlier on Friday evening,
organizers said through their Twitter feed. The boat was brought under
Coast Guard escort to a closed Coast Guard base in Greece.
Also on Saturday, Foreign Ministry
officials said Israel was not behind the engine damage caused to an
Irish ship participating in the Gaza-bound flotilla. The Foreign Ministry added that activists
must feel they are in a "James Bond film."
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported Friday that the
damage caused to the Irish ship might not be a result of sabotage at
all. According to the report, investigations have also revealed that the
ship was damaged before it entered Turkish waters.
Last week, Saoirse,
one of ten ships set to sail in the mass movement to break the Gaza sea
blockade, was docked in Turkish waters when it sustained engine damage.
Fintan Lane, coordinator of the Irish Ship to Gaza organization, called
the act "dangerous sabotage" and said the ship he believed divers had
worked underwater to cut a piece of the propeller shaft.
The damage sustained by the Irish liner caused organizers to pull the vessel out the flotilla.
The controversy surrounding the Saoirse is only the latest in a number of developments that have caused the new flotilla difficulty in setting sail.
On Friday, the
Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection issued a statement saying
that the Minister, C. Papoutsis, decided to prohibit the departure of
ships flying either Greek or foreign flags "to the maritime area" of
"By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all
local Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are
taken for the implementation of the said decision," the statement said.
The Greek ministry said that the "broader maritime area of eastern Mediterranean
will be continuously monitored by electronic means for tracking, where
applicable, the movements of the ships allegedly participating" in the
While Cyprus had already banned ships headed for
Gaza from leaving their ports, the Greeks had not taken this measure
flotilla of boats planning to challenge Israel's naval blockade of the
Gaza Strip is expected to sail next week, after repeated delays that
activists blame on Israeli sabotage. Israel has denied the accusations.