Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Ulsterman: I was brutalised in Israeli custody

Archive photo of Fiachra O'Luaine from Carndonagh, Co. Donegal, on the Rachel Corrie
Mairead Maguire with aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie
Palestinian members of the Hamas naval police and civilian defense officers ride a boat at Gaza port during a display of their preparations ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, Friday, May 28

An Ulster aid worker deported from Israel has described how he was beaten and repeatedly threatened while in custody after he was taken from the flotilla of boats that has caused international controversy.

Fiachra O Luain (28) from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, arrived back in Dublin Airport yesterday and said he had feared for his life during the incident which resulted in their deportation from Israel to Turkey.

Despite this the humanitarian aid worker has already vowed to return on a new flotilla to Gaza. Mr O Luain said he was “brutalised” while in custody in Ben Gurion airport. He said there are bruises all around his body as a result.

“As soon as one of them grabbed me, about 15 or 20 jumped me, kicked me, punched me as soon as I hit the ground,” he said.

“They had my arm in stress positions, they tried to break my finger.”

He said he feared for his life during his time in custody and at one stage asked to see a Rabbi.

“I asked to see a Rabbi and they told me I would only see a Rabbi when they killed me,” Mr O Luain said.

Others who were taken into custody were also “brutalised” and “hammered” to the ground, he said.

When they were held in Ben Gurion prior to a scheduled flight out to Istanbul, Mr O Luain said they were repeatedly threatened and he had his passport taken from him. “I have no reason to believe that my passport will not be abused as Israeli agents have previously abused Irish passports,” he said.

Mr O Luain also described the terrifying moments when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, which was close to the Challenger 1 vessel he was travelling on.

He said: “The Israelis first made contact by radio at 11.05pm exactly. They identified themselves as an Israeli navy warship and threatened to use force, claiming it would be the responsibility of the captains onboard. We reminded them we were a humanitarian convoy in international waters and they said they would use any mean necessary. Then they assaulted all boats.

“I saw what they did. I was on the bow of the Challenger 1 and there was live gunfire straight away from below and from the helicopters. One of the men was shot in the head. Another man was shot with a bullet right between his eyes at point blank range.”

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