Interrogation the worst - Davids

2010-06-04 22:23

Cape Town - The South African journalist who was caught up in the deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, Gadija Davids, said on Friday the worst part was being interrogated by the Israelis.

"They ask you round-about questions. Nothing is specific so you do not know what exactly they want from you, and if the answer you give them is not what they want they put down their own answer," she said.

"I asked them if I could speak to someone from my embassy and they said this is Israel you do not need to speak to anyone from your embassy, and then I asked can I speak to a lawyer they said 'you get that opportunity in Europe - this is Israel'," Davids said.

"It was a shocking experience."

Davids arrived back in South Africa on Friday afternoon after being detained and released by the Israeli government for being on a ship that tried to break through the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

She was one of 40 journalists on board one of six ships that formed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was taking aid supplies to Gaza on Monday.

The flotilla attempted to deliver humanitarian aid.

They were confronted by Israeli commandos who rappelled onto their crafts in international waters. A clash ensued, with both the activists and the Israeli defence force claiming they were provoked.

Intense experience

Davids said that as the boat was attacked she was able to get to the press room on time and was strapped down there with the other women on board.

"It was an intense experience not knowing what was going on then we heard over the intercom several people saying 'stop attacking, we are unarmed' and then after that it was 'brothers stop resisting because too many people are getting hurt'," she said.

"When hearing that, you do not know how to react. You cannot believe this is happening."

There were no weapons on board the ship, everyone went through heavy security checks before climbing on board, said Davids.

"We were civilians, there were no weapons."

She said people on the boat were "slightly prepared" to encounter Israeli intimidation.

"We did not expect though the type of attack that we had," she said.

Once the Israeli's had seized the boat they took the women onto the deck. While on deck, she saw blood on the stairs.

The detainees were taken to a Ashkelon prison in Israel.

"They told us we were lucky because it was a new prison," said Davids.

No phone calls

"The prison was not as harsh as everything else we went through and we were only there for a day, but we were not allowed to make a phone call until the embassies arrived the next day."

Davids was one of the few detainees who was allowed to make a quick phone call home, she said.

"Only people who could speak English were allowed to make a phone call because they (the Israeli)] only had an English interpreter and they listen in on your call."

The detainees were told to sign an admission of guilt which the embassy recommended she sign otherwise she would face further interrogation and could be held in the country indefinitely, she said.

From the prison they were put in a van, infested with cockroaches, and a small slit for a window.

"We could not see where we were going," Davids said.

"Not knowing where we were was part of the terror."

Luggage stolen

The van had stopped at the airport where they were deported back to Turkey. All their luggage was stolen and the only thing she came home with were the clothes on her back.

The only thing that went through her mind through the whole experience was to take everything as it comes, and not to panic.

"Everyone there said what we went through was what the Palestinian people go through every day," Davids said.