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Posted on June 2, 2010

East Bay Activist Released By Israeli Authorities

SAN FRANCISCO -- The East Bay activist who dove from the so-called “freedom flotilla” bound for Gaza when Israeli forces raided the ships has been released by authorities and left Israel, KTVU learned Wednesday night after speaking with him via cell phone from a friend's home in Greece.

Paul LaRudee was the last remaining Bay Area detainee being held by Israeli authorities.

The El Cerrito man said he was flown out of Israel at around 5 p.m. Wednesday night and is now at a friend's home in Athens recovering from his injuries.

Larudee spoke to KTVU by phone from Athens after arrangements were made for an interview with his wife at the couple’s El Cerrito home.

“I was treated pretty rough,” said Larudee. “Basically any part of my body that could be hit was hit; any joint of my body that could be twisted was twisted.”

Larudee said he was beaten by Israeli Authorities because he wouldn't sign documents as they demanded.

He also described the dramatic action he took of jumping into the sea as Israeli commandos tried to arrest him and his comrades aboard a Greek boat that was part of the flotilla heading for Gaza.

"It was a sensational act to some extent to draw some attention to what was going on," said Larudee.

He said he was pulled out of the water about an hour later.

Larudee, 64, is a former professor and co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement who works as a piano tuner. His wife said he is passionate about the cause but she is glad he is coming home.

"Definitely I think he'll do much better by being outside Israel," she said.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin issued a statement Wednesday afternoon in support of Larudee and Sheetz. Larudee's mailing address is in El Cerrito but his home is within Richmond city limits, according to the mayor's office.

"I have worked with Paul Larudee on local housing issues in Richmond, and I know his track record of commitment to nonviolence in standing up against the oppression of the Palestinians," McLaughlin said.

She said she had been told Larudee was seriously beaten after he refused to follow Israeli orders. According to the Free Palestine movement, Larudee was also shot with a Taser gun.

"It is unconscionable that he was brutalized by his captors while he was resisting peacefully following the tradition of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," the mayor said.

Israeli troops raided the flotilla, early Monday. At least nine people aboard one ship, the Mavi Marmara, were killed and dozens more injured. Larudee's wife said he was not on that ship.

Daniel Morgan, of the Israeli consulate, said that the aid supplies on the ship were loaded onto 21 Israeli trucks to be delivered to Gaza, but that the militant group Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the U.S., had blocked the shipment.

The items include expired medication, clothing, blankets, medical equipment and toys, Morgan said.

Israel released video showing what it describes as the violent reaction commandos met when they repelled onto flotilla ships.

Activists can be seen trying to club soldiers with what appear to be sticks or metal bars. They also used water cannons on another small Israeli boat.

"This wasn't a love boat. This was a hate boat. These weren't pacifists or peace activists. These were violent supporters of terrorism," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has faced international condemnation for its use of force.

"We should do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again, and I stressed this point in a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel," said British Prime Minister, David Cameron.

527 activists have been deported put on buses and then flown to Turkey and Greece. Some of them were flown by air ambulance.

"We have no desire whatsoever to see these activists lingering in an Israeli detention centre and we are acting now for their immediate return to their countries of origin," said Mark Regev an Israeli government spokesman.

Larudee said he planned on staying in Greece for a few more days to recover from his injuries.

KTVU asked him if his effort was worth it.

"At least it helped open some eyes to what's happening there and the seriousness of the blockade at Gaza and how it's affecting the lives of the people there," said Larudee.

Four other Bay Area activists, Gene St. Onge and Janet Koren of Oakland, Iara Lee of San Francisco and Kathy Sheetz of Richmond are making flight arrangements to return to the Bay Area.

"Four of them are uninjured and are basically going through the process that is going to allow them to travel back," said Morgan.

Despite their efforts, Israel's Prime Minister reiterated the blockade of Gaza will not be lifted.

Meanwhile in San Francisco Wednesday evening, protesters gathered outside the Israeli consulate for the third day in a row.

Click here to see the TV broadcast of this report


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