Scottish activist Theresa McDermott has been found in Ramleh prison four days after she was “disappeared” by the Israel government after being forcibly removed from a seaborne Lebanese aid mission to Gaza. In early February Theresa responded to a call for support from internationals from the organizers of a Lebanese humanitarian aid voyage to Gaza aboard the Togo flagged ship, Tali. Theresa was one of only 9 passengers aboard the cargo ship on February 4, 2009 when Israeli gunboats intercepted it, boarded and forced the ship to Ashdod port in Israel.
All the passengers and crew aboard were released on Thursday, February 5 except Theresa. Between Thursday evening and Sunday morning there was no word about Theresa’s whereabouts except several false stories saying that “Britons” had departed to London. Finally on Sunday, Theresa was able to call her brother John in Scotland to say she was in Ramleh prison in Israel.
According to Al Jazeera journalist Salam Khodr, when the ship was boarded, the passengers were beaten and kicked by Israeli soldiers before being removed from the ship.
No information has been provided by Israeli officials about why Theresa has been detained, what the charges are if any and why her detention was concealed. When the British Consulate in Israel was contacted for assistance in finding Theresa, staff refused to help locate Theresa saying they couldn’t provide assistance to a UK citizen unless she personally requested it. Members of the Scottish Parliament including Pauline McNeil and Hugh O’Donnell who were part of a fall delegation to Gaza aboard the Free Gaza boat, Dignity, are working with the British government to ensure that Theresa receives the protection and assistance to which she is entitled.
Theresa went to Gaza with the first Free Gaza boats in August and returned with the ship Dignity for a second voyage. She is a respected, long time human rights activist who has worked with the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine as well as with Free Gaza. At home in Scotland she works for the Post Office. The Israelis found only medical and other humanitarian aid on the Tali but refused to return the ship. The status of its humanitarian cargo is unknown.