Isle activist freed and on her way back


POSTED: Friday, June 04, 2010

Honolulu peace activist Ann Wright is heading back to Honolulu after being released from Israeli custody following a deadly confrontation over a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza, a colleague said.

“;She should be on her way back to Hawaii today,”; wrote Greta Berlin of Free Gaza, organizer of the so-called Freedom Flotilla, in an e-mail.

Wright was among 464 people, along with the bodies of nine activists killed in the raid, who were flown to Turkey yesterday after Israel deported them. About 190 other activists were taken by bus to Jordan.

It was unclear whether Wright would be heading directly back to Hawaii or would stop over on the mainland, where she has relatives.

In an interview broadcast on the website, a woman identified as Wright said she was aboard the Challenger 1, a small, American-flagged ship, when she saw Israeli forces storm the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of the six-vessel flotilla. The Israeli forces then turned on the other ships.

“;Our boat was boarded,”; she said. “;People were thrown on the deck. Windows were blown out. Flash bangs were used.”; She said the Israelis “;were very excessively rough, excessively forceful.”;

Wright denounced Israel's 2008 attack on Gaza and its reported refusal to allow reconstruction materials back into the region. She accused the Israeli forces of “;piracy”; and said the activists' belongings, including cameras and computers, had been confiscated.

“;If we have any friends that are in Israel, I hope that they go down to the black market and see where our stuff is, because somebody is making a killing on this thing,”; she said.

In Istanbul, thousands of mourners hailed the nine slain activists—including one American—as martyrs yesterday, while Turkish leaders said Israel had jeopardized its relationship with its closest Muslim ally despite meeting Ankara's demand to free the hundreds captured in the raid.

The Israeli government, while still insisting that its blockade of Gaza is essential to its security, is now shifting its position, “;exploring new ways”; of allowing goods to reach the coastal enclave, an Israeli official said yesterday on condition of anonymity.

The official said Israel was determined to have every ship heading to Gaza inspected to prevent the smuggling of weapons. However, he said, the government wanted to facilitate the entry of civilian goods.

Star-Bulletin news services contributed to this report.