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SA flotilla activist speaks out on ordeal

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A South African victim of an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara has emotionally recounted her experiences on the besieged vessel at a press conference at Constitutional Hall, Johannesburg on Tuesday. Gadija Davids was amongst those aboard the ship in 2010 when their flotilla, aiming to break through the Israeli blockage on Gaza, was attacked by Israeli Naval Forces, killing nine activists on board.

Among the maltreatments used by her captives according to Davids was the denial of access to air conditioning during the summer heat on the Mediterranean, as well subjecting them to the use of broken toilets where the faeces of fellow captives was still visible.

Upon arrival in the Israeli port city of Ashdod, Davids said those detained were given a reception akin to being “less than human”, being denied any form of legal or consular assistance, amongst other things.

“I was made to stand facing a wall in a tent while the Israeli’s laughed at me, only for us to be sent off again. Those are just some of the things we experienced, and I felt these were the types of experiences Palestinians go through every day,” said a tearful Davids.

“Seeing and experience it for myself reaffirmed my desire to create awareness around what Israelis are doing in Palestine.”

Davids praised the decision of South African authorities to take up the Turkish issued warrant of arrest against four Israeli commanders accused of leading the assault on the Mavi Marmara. The accused are former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, navy head, Eliezer Marom, head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin and air force intelligence head, Avishai Levy.

“This decision by SA authorities, through the hard work of Ziyaad (Patel) and everyone at the Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) has given us an opportunity to tighten the net around the Israelis and restrict their movements even further, because they have been doing it for far too long in Palestine,” she said.

Attorney Ziyaad Patel quoted a submission from a fellow attorney who led the case in Turkey, which blatantly stated that Davids’ life had come under threat during the attack on the vessel.

“Based on the above testimony it is clear that the Israeli soldiers had the objective of killing Gadija Davids too, and tried to do so,” he quoted.

Patel explained that the court order issued by the 7th High Criminal Court in Istanbul in May stated the four Israeli commanders at the centre of the case need be placed on “red alert” with Turkish Interpol.

“By that time our authorities had already agreed to investigate Gadija’s case (as per the Rome Statute)…Our authorities believed the two cases are linked, they agreed that the investigation must continue and that crimes were committed against Gadija. On that basis, they carried out their functions as they are supposed to do.

“A letter was also sent to the NPA Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU) stating that should such persons be detected, Interpol Pretoria must immediately be informed in order that the last mentioned liaise with the Turkish authorities to confirm the request for extradition,” he added.

Patel vowed that if any of the four accused were arrested and indicted within the Turkish High Court, he would push to ensure they were also interrogated for their involved in the 2008-2009 Israeli Operation Cast Lead campaign on Gaza. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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