I write to inform you about Ken O’Keefe, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was stormed by the Israeli military in the early hours of Monday 31st May, towed to Ashdod Port in Israel and all its passengers detained.
Just a brief background on Ken: He was born and raised in California and served in the US Marine Corps, being deployed to Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. After many years spent working in the field of marine conservation and green sea turtle rescues (funded by his scuba diving operation, Deep Ecology) and Hawaiian Sovereignty, he left the US shortly after the events of 911 and renounced his US citizenship, entering into the political asylum process in Holland. In 2003 he initiated and led the Human Shield Action to Iraq during the invasion. In 2008 he served as a captain and 1st mate with the Free Gaza Movement, which ended the 41 year siege of Gaza by sailing two boats into Gaza. He is currently the director of Aloha Palestine, a company he co-founded to establish a lawful passenger and cargo shipping service between Cyprus and Gaza. He joined the Freedom Flotilla to meet with the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, exporters and others in relation to Aloha Palestine. However, while on board he took on the role of defending the ship.
Ken has appeared on a number of news programs and live news broadcasts as a political analyst since 2008.
Ken was transferred to Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday and was due to be deported by the Israeli authorities to Istanbul, then repatriated to Dublin by the Irish officials. He refused deportation and demanded that he be sent to Gaza, or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, using his Palestinian travel documents (he was awarded Palestinian citizenship when he captained one of the two Free Gaza boats into Gaza in August 2008). The Israelis acknowledged that he is a Palestinian citizen, but refused his demand on the basis that his passport was invalid since it had not been registered.
The general atmosphere in the airport on Wednesday was quite chaotic, and a scuffle broke out. Ken was bashed on the forehead and then badly beaten by the Israeli officials/police. He sustaineds a large bloody gash on his head, and some bruised ribs. When I spoke with him he had a hoarse, croaky voice. He had been put in a head lock until he nearly passed out. His aggressor released Ken at the last possible moment. Ken refused medical attention because he was not allowed access to a lawyer, nor was he being allowed to make phone calls.
On Thursday Ken’s case went before a judge who ruled that he be detained pending deportation (Ken wanted to be released without charge).
Having already been complaining of dizziness following his first beating by Israeli police, Ken was beaten again that night in his cell. Again, he has refused treatment for his injuries. Ken was unable to eat for a few days as his throat was sore following being held in a head lock on Wednesday.
He wanted to appeal his deportation and go to Gaza, but his solicitor advised him that for his own safety he should leave Israel. The longer he stayed, the greater the detriment to his health. On Friday morning he signed his Emergency Travel Documents provided to him by the Irish Consulate and was booked onto a flight to Istanbul.
Israeli officials asked him to clean himself up as his face was bloody and he was quite dishevelled. He refused, as he wanted the world to see what had happened to him. The officials threatened to keep him in custody unless he co-operated, but he called their bluff, and was allowed to board his flight to Istanbul as he was. He was met by Irish Embassy staff and a press conference. He also gave an interview with Turkish newspaper the Hurriyet, which was featured on the front page. Prior to the press conference he had issued the following statement:
“I want to discuss my role in defending the ship and disarming two Israeli commandos along with conditions and treatment while in Israeli custody, including two beatings at the hands of Israeli agents.”
Ken will depart Istanbul on Wednesday 9th June for Dublin, where he will stay for two days before returning home to his wife and baby son on Friday 11th June.
Please find attached a personal statement written by Ken in Istanbul, and below are photographs taken on his arrival to Istanbul.
Press conferences are being arranged in Dublin and London. Please contact me if you would like to interview Ken.