US Gaza flotilla activists stage hunger strike in Greece

'Audacity of Hope' passengers hold protest outside US embassy in Athens demanding US government allow them to sail to Gaza.

US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope' 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
US boat to Gaza flotilla 'Audacity of Hope' 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Activists intending to participate in the flotilla to Gaza on-board the US-flagged ship The Audacity of Hope announced an open-ended hunger strike, aimed at pressuring the US government to allow the ship to set sail to the Strip, organizers said in a press release Sunday.
Eight of the passengers, including Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin and former CIA official Ray McGovern, were listed as those participated in the hunger strike.
Additionally, the group said it would be holding a protest in front of the US embassy in Athens to publicly make their call to the US government. "We call on officials at the US embassy in Athens to publicly acknowledge our right to sail and to call on the Greek government to free our ship and its captain immediately," American activist and hopeful flotilla passenger Kathy Kelly said in the statement.
The statement added that US Deputy Consul General Kate Brandeis in Athens told the activists they "had a right to sail to Gaza" in a June 24 meeting. It lamented that the embassy has not assisted the captain of the boat, a US citizen, who remains in Greek custody.
The US-flagged ship attempted to sail from a Greek port on Friday in defiance of a Greek government order banning ships departing for the coastal strip. Stopped and escorted back into port by the Helenic Coast Guard, the ship's captain was arrested for defying the order against leaving port.
Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report