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Israel deports Northern Ireland Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire

Captured: The Spirit of Humanity from which Mairead Maguire and 20 others were taken
Captured: The Spirit of Humanity from which Mairead Maguire and 20 others were taken

Northern Irish human rights campaigner and Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire is due to return to Ireland today after spending a week in Israeli captivity.

Ms Maguire was was arrested by Israeli soldiers while on board the ship, Spirit of Humanity, attempting to bring aid to Gaza last Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Hilary Smith said they were now being held in cells at an airport in Tel Aviv.

Ms Smith said: "We have heard that they were held in extremely uncomfortable conditions and not given any of their belongings.

"We are concerned by a report on Saturday that Mareaid had been denied access medication.

"She's going to be able to confirm some of this when we speak to her."

Speaking from her cell at Givon prison in the city of Ramala last week Ms Maguire told the Belfast Telegraph of the moments when Israeli gunboats surrounded her vessel as it attempted to deliver medicines and other supplies to Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

“We were threatened by the Israeli navy when we were in international waters and during the night they told us they would shoot if we didn’t turn back to Cyprus,” she said.

“They cut off all our satellite communications and our lives were very much in danger, because we could have strayed into Israeli waters.

“We sailed on and they kept threatening that they would shoot if we didn’t turn back.”

Above: Mairead Maguire talks to Al Jazeera from Israeli jail 4 Jul 09

In the early hours of Tuesday navy boats pulled up to Mairead’s ship and special forces troops began to board it.

“They were fully armed and wore balaclavas,” she said.

“They took all our equipment off us and handcuffed several people. They took me into a separate place and forcibly took our ship to Israel.”

The passengers and crew were taken to a detention centre before being moved to prison in Ramala.

“I was taken handcuffed in a military vehicle and I’m here in the prison in the clothes I arrived in,” said Ms Maguire.

“At the moment there are 19 of us still being held here after two Palestinian women were released.

“They have said we are going to be deported, but deportation orders aren’t appropriate for us, as we were taken to Israel against our will. We want to leave Israel, but with our friends and all the belongings that were taken from us.”

The contested Gaza territory is currently under blockade from Israel with only limited supplies being allowed in to Palestinians living there.

“Physically I am very well, but I think more of the Palestinians who are denied the ability to cross the border and see their loved ones,” said Ms Maguire.

“It gives us a reflection of how tough it is for the Palestinian people and the way that they are treated.

“It is a complete blockade of Gaza and collective punishment of 1.5m people which breaks the Geneva Convention. We have |to highlight how desperate |that is.”

Israel has said that the boat was attempting to enter the Gaza Strip illegally.

Ms Maguire was a founder member of the Peace People, which campaigned against violence during the Troubles.

She was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace alongside co-founder Betty Williams in 1976.

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