Istanbul welcomes returning activists

Deputy Turkish PM: They faced barbarism, oppression while detained.

wounded activist ankara 311 (photo credit: AP)
wounded activist ankara 311
(photo credit: AP)
ISTANBUL — Hundreds of activists deported from Israel following a bloody raid on a pro-Palestinian flotilla by Israeli soldiers, returned to a hero's welcome in Turkey early Thursday. Nine bodies were also on the first plane.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and several lawmakers welcomed the detainees at the airport after Turkey pressured Israel to release them. Most of those arrested were Turkish nationals.
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"They faced barbarism and oppression but returned with pride," Arinc told hundreds of jubilant relatives and supporters who burst into applause outside the airport, chanting "God is Great!" A few thousand people also celebrated their return in downtown Istanbul.
Three still detained, seven in hospital
Three air ambulance planes, carrying wounded activists, landed in Ankara earlier. NTV television said the activists who arrived in Istanbul would also undergo medical checks.
Seven planes were being used to deport 527 activists to Turkey and Greece, Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said. Seven other activists remained in Israeli hospitals for treatment of wounds suffered during the Israeli raid, she said.
After all the planes took off, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said three activists remained in detention over "documentation and other issues," without elaborating. The three were from Ireland, Australia and Italy.
About a dozen female activists scuffled with security officers at the airport but were quickly subdued by authorities, Israeli officials said. Officials said no charges will be filed and the women were to be deported as planned.
The UN, Europe and others harshly criticized Israel after its commandos stormed the six-ship flotilla in international waters, setting off the clashes. About 700 activists — including 400 Turks — were trying to break the Israeli and Egyptian naval blockade of the Gaza Strip by bringing in 10,000 tons of aid.
Turkey's parliament urged its government to review all ties with Israel as the country prepared to welcome home Turkish activists who had been detained after the raid.
Pope Benedict XVI urged both sides to resolve the problem with dialogue, telling pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that he was worried the raid would have "dramatic consequences and generate more violence."