Monday, June 14, 2010

Activist took photos of deadly Gaza flotilla clash

B.C. activist took photos of deadly Gaza flotilla clash
By Ian Shelton, Victoria Times Colonist June 7, 2010 
VICTORIA — Victoria activist Kevin Neish smuggled photos out of Israel in his mouth, pocket and underwear, he said Monday.

During a morning news conference, Neish recounted what he saw during last week's deadly Gaza flotilla clash that left at least nine dead. He told reporters he was able to slip his camera's memory card past the Israeli military and into Turkey.

"I got my chip out of my camera, I pitched the lovely expensive camera away . . . and I hid that chip on my body in different places."

Some of the photos, purporting to show Israeli soldiers captured by passengers on the Mavi Marmara, were published online Monday by a Turkish newspaper. But Neish said that more pictures showing dead passengers aboard the Turkish ship have yet to be released.

"I saw one die in front of my face," Neish said. "He had a huge hole in his chest and he was struggling to get his breath. I took a picture and he stopped breathing."

It was one among many gruesome details Neish recalled while sitting at a table draped in the Palestinian flag, a "Let Gaza Live" poster behind him.

The Mavi Marmara was one of six ships that tried to run the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials said the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching the Palestinian territory.

While Israeli soldiers quickly seized five of the ships, a fight broke out on the Mavi Marmara that resulted in the deaths of nine passengers. Israel contends its soldiers were protecting themselves.

Neish spent three days in Israeli custody during which time he lost 15 pounds, he said.

"I didn't sleep for four days," he added.

Neish said that, in Israel, he and most of the other detained passengers signed voluntary deportation orders. He was flown to Istanbul, where he handed the memory card over to the Turkish organization behind the Mavi Marmara's blockade run.

The truth of what happened on the Mavi Marmara has been hotly contested, with Israel accusing some of the passenger of links to terrorist groups — a claim flatly denied by Turkish officials.

On Sunday, Iran's Revolutionary Guard offered to escort future convoys, raising the spectre of a high seas clash between two of the region's largest military powers.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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