Yonatan Shapira held in Greek port: “I don’t know if I’m detained or not”

I just spoke by phone with my friend Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli refusenik and activist who is among the crew of “The Audacity of Hope,” the American boat currently being held by the Greek government. The captain of the ship has been jailed and will be formally charged this week. Meanwhile, Yonatan and the crew are being held by the Greek authorities, though he doesn’t actually know if he’s being formally detained. I encourage readers to call the Greek Embassy in Washington at 202.939.1300 and report what you’ve learned in my comments section.

My conversation with Yonatan follows:

MB: What’s the situation?

Yonatan Shapira: We’re on the boat right now and it’s docked in this place guarded by the Greek Coast Guard. Basically they took us to this Coast Guard place and kept us in detention. And the crew was supposed to not leave the boat or this little compound. But the two British members of the crew were just told by the embassy that they could leave there — under the European Union law they could be free. So it’s just me and the American crew members and it’s not clear if we can leave. One of the guys form the crew tried to leave and they said he couldn’t. Most of the passengers chose to stay with us. The press has all left. Democracy Now tried to come back today and they were not allowed in.

MB: Why have they jailed the captain?

YS: They can use him as an example for all the future flotillas and keep him in jail for a long time, to try to intimidate them. On Monday or Tuesday there will be a court hearing and the lawyers are preparing. But it’s an obvious case of the Greeks trying to intimidate future flotillas and the current one because there are several vessels preparing to leave. The Canadians are still in port surrounded by Coast Guard vessels.

MB: Do you think there’s any chance of the flotilla disembarking for Gaza?

YS: It’s hard to believe that they will leave. It’s all a political decision and how much pressure can we apply on a government that’s under so much pressure, so hated by its own people? On the other hand, maybe we are just one fly on the back of this big cow.

MB: So are you officially a prisoner of the Greek government?

YS: I don’t know if I’m detained or not but I’m going to check a bit later and see if I can just go out. They took our names and numbers. But I believe they are going to pursue the trial of the captain and let us go.

MB: It’s kind of funny that Greece is holding Americans apparently on behalf of Israel and the US government doesn’t seem to mind.

YS: It just shows how the US and Israel is becoming like one big distorted body.

MB: Maybe if you had Rabbi Dov Lior as a crew member the Israeli government would allow Greece to release the boat. [Yonatan laughs] Seriously though, do you think this latest flotilla has achieved at least a symbolic victory?

YS: We have generated a lot of media and the battle is still long. But personally I want to sail. Then again, it’s a long sail that we’re on and maybe this is just one stop on the journey.

3 thoughts on “Yonatan Shapira held in Greek port: “I don’t know if I’m detained or not”

  1. lindaj

    When they first commandeered the boat, I called the SF Greek embassy. The woman was pretty snotty. She said if I really cared I would have given money so the Americans could buy a boat big enough to sail straight to Gaza from here. That way Greece wouldn’t have been bothered.

    Anyway, the embassy won’t be there this weekend, I’m sure. But I’ve sent tons of emails.

    Good luck and bon voyage (hopefully) to Yonatan and the other brave and intrepid flotilla folks. I’m in awe.

  2. chayma100

    No doubt Yonaton will be “harassed” for a while. I hope he is released soon.

    Palestine News Network has a video interview Yonaton gave to Democracy Now, featuring a tour of “The Audacity of Hope”.

    Exclusive Video: Inside Tour of “The Audacity of Hope”
    As ships gather in Greece ready to set sail to Gaza as part of the international flotilla, Democracy Now! Released an exclusive inside tour of the American flagged ship The Audacity of Hope.

    Israel accused activists of trying to get dangerous materials into Gaza that is under Israeli siege since the summer of 2007. Israeli activist Yonatan Shapira, who also provided an interview afterwards about the flotilla, led the tour.


  3. chayma100

    Greece’s complicity in this fiasco, is to be condemned.

    But then again, if you look at the state she is in, economically bankrupt, (there was talk in the EU of bailing her out) it’s clear there was some kind of arrangement behind the scenes with Israel who was looking for a partner to replace Turkey. Israel and Greece have forged some kind of relationship after Turkey’s fiery rhetoric and Mavi Marmara flotilla sail last year, that and sharing military expertise and trade, probably played a large factor.

    As Israel Matzav reports with barely concealed glee:

    Greece is the hero, but why?
    posted by Carl in Jerusalem

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