Freed Irish activists say they feared for their lives in Israeli custody

THERE were smiles and tears for two freed Irish peace activists who arrived back on Irish shores yesterday after being imprisoned and beaten by Israeli commandos who stormed their aid ship.

One bruised activist claimed the Israelis threatened to kill him while another described how he came within an inch of being shot dead by raiding commandos.

Relieved mother Eleanor Lamb embraced her son Fiachra O Luain as he walked through arrivals at Dublin airport. The 28-year-old claimed he was “brutalised” while in Israeli custody.

“They grabbed me by the arm, as soon as they did, about 15 to 20, jumped on me and kicked me and punched me. As soon as I hit the ground I said ‘ok, ok, ok’ and it took a few minutes for them to stop punching me. They tried to break my finger.”

At one stage while being held in Tel Aviv, soldiers had told him the only time he would meet a rabbi, a Jewish cleric, would be at his funeral, claimed the Donegal man. Mr O Luain showed reporters bruises on his arm and face.

Ms Lamb said she was proud of her son after being scared for his life. She said she had personally spoken to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who had publicly said there would be serious consequences if any harm came to Irish citizens in Israel.

“I am challenging him [Mr Cowen] to follow up on that. I want the Irish Government to cut all diplomatic links with Israel, to extradite the Israeli ambassador and his entourage and call back our ambassador from Israel.”

Fellow released activist Fintan Lane, also bruised, said commandos had thrown a stun grenade near him on the Challenger I aid vessel before threatening to shoot him.

“I did fear for my life. There was one occasion when they stormed the boat and an Israeli soldier put a rifle to my face and told me to move a few inches or he’d shoot me.”

The Cork historian said four commandos wrestled him off the ship before he was jailed ashore.

The activists yesterday described how another Irish citizen, Ken O’Keeffe, was recovering in intensive care in Tel Aviv after being beaten by Israeli forces.

Another Irishman, Al Mahdi Al Harat, was also recovering with a diabetic condition in Turkey last night after falling ill in Israeli custody.

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