Greece Jails US Captain in Gaza Flotilla

Athens – The American captain of a United States-flagged boat in the planned flotilla to Gaza was jailed Saturday, a day after trying to sail out of port, flotilla organizers said.

A judge contended that the boat, The Audacity of Hope, was not carrying proper safety equipment and charged the captain, John Klusmire, with “disturbing sea traffic and endangering passengers,” a felony, and with disobeying an official directive, a misdemeanor, said Ann Wright, an organizer.

The flotilla was organized to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, Greece’s Ministry of Citizen Protection banned all vessels from leaving Greek ports for the “maritime area of Gaza.” The police had also ordered The Audacity of Hope to remain docked until the port authorities provided the results of an inspection. After waiting one week for the inspection results, however, organizers decided to sail without Greek authorization.

Just 20 minutes after the boat left port near Athens on Friday, the coast guard stopped it and escorted it to a military dock. The police told Mr. Klusmire and his crew to remain aboard. On Saturday, Mr. Klusmire was summoned to a court in the port city of Piraeus, Ms. Wright said. A second hearing for Mr. Klusmire is scheduled for Tuesday.

Separately, an investigation by the Turkish police concluded that claims by Irish flotilla organizers that their boat had been sabotaged while docked in Turkey were erroneous, according to a report in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet that was confirmed by an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Israeli officials had until Saturday dismissed as absurd conspiracy theorizing the suggestion that Israeli agents had sabotaged the Irish boat and another flotilla vessel, while declining to deny the accusations outright.

But on Saturday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said, “There is no evidence of any sabotage, and we didn’t do it.”

Ethan Bronner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.