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Gaza activist 'beaten in Israeli jail'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 04 June 2010

While Channel 4 News learns of alleged violence against activists being held in Israel following the Gaza flotilla raid Lindsey Hilsum reports on the fears of violence as another ship prepares to dock.

Gaza crisis: peace campaigner Kenneth O'Keefe (Credit: Getty)

An Irish-American activist has been hospitalised after allegedly suffering beatings at the hands of Israeli security forces.

In an email Kenneth O'Keefe's partner writes: "Having already been complaining of dizziness following his first beating by Israeli police, Ken was beaten again last night in his cell.

"He has been taken to hospital where he is receiving treatment for his injuries. I am unsure as to whether he was taken against his will."

Channel 4 News understands that O'Keefe wanted to appeal his deportation and go on into Gaza, but his solicitor advised him that he should leave Israel for his own safety.

Click here for Ken O'Keefe's website

He is believed to have signed emergency travel documents provided to him by the Irish Consulate and was booked on a flight to Istanbul on Wednesday afternoon where he was to be met by staff form the Irish Embassy.

But as hundreds of activists were being deported from Ben Gurion airport, a scuffle broke out in which O'Keefe sustained injuries.

Fellow activist Dr Lane claimed Ken O'Keefe was beaten by security officials at the airport before boarding, saying "His injuries were so bad that he had to be hospitalised in Tel Aviv."

The email from O'Keefe's partner continues: "Ken is still on hunger strike, although he is taking water. Israeli officials have asked him to clean him self up as his clothes are bloody and he is quite dishevelled. He refuses, as he wants the world to see what has happened to him."

Israelis shrug off outrage over Gaza flotilla

O'Keefe is a former marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War. He said he renounced his US citizenship in protest over America's "funding of war, death and murder". He has been active in many international human rights campaigns and in 2003 he started Human Shield, the volunteer mission of peace activists who acted as human shields in Iraq.

A dedicated peace activist Ken O'Keefe says on his website: "We have been conditioned to be selfish, ignorant and destructive. But our true nature is quite the opposite. Raised with love, protected from danger, allowed to be free, we are a most magnificent of species. In a sane and natural state we shall exemplify the 'golden rule' and we will have peace."

In a telephone conversation in the last 48 hours O'Keefe told fellow activists: "I want to discuss my role in defending the ship and disarming two Israeli commandos along with conditions and treatment while in Israeli custody, including two beatings at the hands of Israeli agents."

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland reports that O'Keefe has now flown out of Tel Aviv and will undergo  a full medical examination when he arrives in Istanbul.

The DFA told Channel 4 news 'Mr O’Keefe has alleged that he was assaulted while in the detention centre, and he has sustained injuries. The Irish Ambassador has lodged an official protest with the Israeli authorities concerning the treatment of a number of the Irish detainees.'  

Hundreds of foreign nationals are still awaiting deportation from Israel; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office says British activists there are receiving Consular support.

The FCO told Channel 4 News it hadn't received any complaints of mistreatment from the Britons held, but added: "Should one of those who was detained wish us to we would take up any justified complaint about ill-treatment with the relevant authorities.'

Nine people were killed in fighting when Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara on Monday. One of the victims been named as 19 year old US citizen Furkan Dogan, who died after suffering 'gunshot wounds'.

Israel has refused to take part in an international inquiry into the attack.

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