Monday, June 21, 2010

Gaza Flotilla Activists Accuse Israeli Soldiers of Using Confiscated Property

Gaza flotilla activists accuse Israeli soldiers of using confiscated debit cards, phones

June 21, 2010

ISRAELI soldiers have been accused of stealing from activists arrested in the assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after confiscated debit cards belonging to activists were subsequently used.

In their raid of May 31, the soldiers stormed the boats of the flotilla, killing nine activists and confiscating money and goods destined for the Palestinian relief effort in Gaza, the bulk of which have yet to be returned. The soldiers also took most of the personal possessions of the activists when taking them into custody.

The Herald's chief correspondent, Paul McGeough, and photographer Kate Geraghty, had equipment, including cameras, confiscated following their arrest while covering the flotilla's voyage.

Advertisement: Story continues belowIndividual soldiers appear to have used confiscated debit cards to buy items such as iPod accessories, while mobile phones seized from activists have also been used for calls. Ebrahim Musaji, 23, of Gloucester, England, has a bank statement showing his debit card was used in an Israeli vending machine for a purchase costing him 82p ($1.40) on June 9.

It was then used on a Dutch website, twice on June 10: once for amounts equivalent to £42.42 and then for £37.83.

An American activist, Kathy Sheetz, said she had been charged more than $US1000 ($1150) in transactions from vending machines in Israel since June 6.

Mr Musaji and Ms Sheetz were on board two separate boats - one the Mavi Marmara, on which the nine activists were killed, the other on the Challenger 1. Both activists entered Israel only when arrested, and were in custody for their entire time there.

''They've obviously taken my card and used it,'' Mr Musaji said.

He cancelled his card on June 7, the day after he returned to Britain. His bank has agreed to treat the transactions as fraudulent and he will not be charged for them. His mobile phone was also used for two short calls in Israel.

Another American activist, David Schermerhorn, 80, said his iPhone was used, and Manolo Luppichini, an Italian journalist, said his card was debited with the equivalent of €54 ($77).

Activists say Israel still has possession of at least £1 million of goods and cash, comprising aid and personal possessions, including laptops and cameras. Some passports have still not been returned.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in London advised Mr Musaji to make a formal complaint. ''We regard any misconduct as described in Mr Musaji's allegations to be utterly unacceptable,'' she said.

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