A Norwegian boat containing pro-Palestinian activists was seized and the crew was arrested with “excessive force,” according to its captain. The Israeli authorities reportedly boarded the boat, which was en route to Gaza, in international waters before handcuffing and detaining the 22 people onboard.
After being held for three days in an Israeli prison, Captain Herman Reksten returned home early on Thursday.
“We were arrested in international waters and we were closer to Egypt than Israel,” said Reksten upon his arrival to Norway. "Israel has broken all the rules, it's horrific that they board a Norwegian ship in international waters and force it to moor in Israel."
The Israeli army admitted it had captured the Norwegian-flagged Karstein ship and its crew, which included activists who were trying to sail to the Gaza strip to denounce the land and sea blockade imposed by Israel’s apartheid regime on the Palestinian state.
The captain also accused the Israeli army of using tasers on the activists and those arrested from the ship.
He also complained of pain from torture he was subjected to in prison.
“I still have a headache from being hit in the prison,” Reksten added.
However, these allegations were denied by Dan Poraz, a diplomat at the Israeli Embassy in Oslo.
"It's actually exactly the opposite: the ones that were acting against international law were those activists who were attempting to breach an internationally-recognized legal naval blockade over the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by an Islamic terror organization, Hamas,” he told AFP.
The embassy also turned down the accusations of violence and “excessive force.” Instead, according to Poraz, the soldiers used “minimal and reasonable amount of force simply because the crew members were reluctant to cooperate and follow order from the (Israeli) navy.”
Norway has since asked the Israeli government to explain the circumstances under which their citizens were arrested and allegedly subjected to violence by being held in prison.
"We've asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the course of events and on what basis they think they are entitled to intervene on the ship" said Frode Anderson, a spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in an email to the agency. "We will also raise the allegations of excessive use of force."
While most of the crew members have been released, Israel still has seven people under its custody – including two Norwegian citizens, two Swedes, one French, one Spaniard and one Canadian, according to the rights organization Just Future for Palestine.
Moreover, the authoritarian government has since re-imposed the blockade on fuel deliveries to Gaza.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: AFP/Getty Images