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Captain of Gaza-bound boat arrested

The Associated Press
CBC News

Posted: Jul 2, 2011 12:14 PM ET

Last Updated: Jul 2, 2011 1:15 PM ET

Greek authorities have arrested the captain of a boat that is part of a Gaza-bound flotilla trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory.

It comes a day after a Canadian-organized ship carrying protesters bound for Gaza was prevented from leaving a port near Athens. Greek coast guards boarded the Tahrir Friday and attempted to arrest Canadian Sandra Rush, a member of the organizing committee Canadian Boat to Gaza, for refusing to surrender the boat's registration papers.

On Saturday, authorities arrested the 60-year-old captain of the Audacity of Hope. The captain, whose name was not released, is being held at Piraeus police headquarters and will remain there until a court hearing Tuesday. The boat managed to make it out to sea on Friday night before being intercepted by the Greek coast guard.

Coast guard officials say the captain faces charges of trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat's passengers. The latter charge is a felony.

The Audacity of Hope was carrying 36 passengers, four crew and about 10 members of the media. In Jerusalem, Israel has denied claims it sabotaged ships trying to breach its sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Activists accuse Israel of damaging two ships docked in Turkey and Greece that are part of a flotilla of nine vessels attempting to reach the Palestinian territory to break Israel's sea blockade and deliver aid to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed the sabotage charges as "ridiculous," calling them "sad conspiracy theories."

Israel says it imposed the blockade in 2007 to stop weapons reaching the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza. Activists describe the blockade as a form of incarceration for the Palestinians.

Nine activists were killed last year in an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla.