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Swedes in Israeli custody after aid convoy attack

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Swedes in Israeli custody after aid convoy attack
08:00 CEST+02:00
Swedish author Henning Mankell is one of eleven Swedes held in Israel Monday on landing in the port of Ashdod after their Gaza-bound aid flotilla was attacked by Israeli commandos, Sweden's foreign ministry said.

The whereabouts of all Swedes involved in the flotilla have been established including Edda Manga and her husband Mattias Gardell, who were on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara where at least ten people are reported to have died.

Four of the eleven Swedes are reportedly on their way home to Sweden on Tuesday after having agreed to sign deportation orders, among them Mankell and Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan. Six have been imprisoned after declining to sign, while one remained undecided, the foreign ministry has confirmed.

Ministry spokesperson Anders Jörle told AFP earlier on Tuesday that Mankell had been detained and added that not all the Swedes were being held at the same place, with some imprisoned and others simply taken into custody.

Some of the Swedes had been very slightly injured, Jörle said.

The 679 activists which survived the voyage and were taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod have reportedly been given the choice between accepting to be deported or to be tried in an Israeli court.

Only around 50 activists are reported to have accepted the voluntary deportation, while while a further 30 are being treated in hospital for their injuries.

What charges the activists will face remained unclear on Tuesday.

Earlier Monday evening, the foreign ministry countered a rumour set in motion at an anti-Israel demonstration in Oslo that Mankell had been shot in the attack, which left at least nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

The 62-year-old author of the Wallander detective series joined the flotilla from Cyprus by way of smaller boats "after almost 48 hours of playing hide-and-seek with Cypriot police," Ship to Gaza Sweden said in a statement.

Mankell, whose books about world-weary detective Kurt Wallander have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and have been adapted to film and television, said he was taking part in the flotilla to show his solidarity towards the Palestinian people.

"I think that when one talks about solidarity, one must always know that actions are what proves destiny," he told Swedish public radio last Thursday.

"It is with actions that we prove we are ready to support something we believe is important," he said.

In addition to Mankell, Ship to Gaza Sweden said nine Swedes were in the flotilla when it was attacked, including controversial Swedish-Israeli artist Dror Feiler, parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan, and several doctors and academics.

The ships, carrying more than 700 passengers, were on a mission to deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies to Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.

"Firstly we wish to contribute with necessities such as medicines and materials for reconstruction, secondly to raise political interest in the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, and thirdly to show the people in Gaza that they are not alone," said Mikael Löfgren at Ship to Gaza-Sweden to The Local last Thursday.

Israel had warned the attempt to break the blockade was illegal and that it would intercept the ships. Israeli commandos boarded the six vessels in the early hours of Monday morning killing at least ten activists and injuring dozens more.

Worldwide condemnation of Israeli actions continued on Tuesday with the UN Security Council calling on the country to release all of the 480 detained activists.

Thousands of people came out across Scandinavia on Monday to demonstrate against Israel's storming of the aid flotilla.

Around 6,000 protesters crowding the central Sergelstorg, according to a police estimate, waving Palestinian flags and shouting "Boycott Israel!" and "Israel to The Hague!", and waving banners saying "There will be more ships to Gaza." The scenes were repeated in Gothenburg and Malmö.

The Freedom Flotilla or Ship to Gaza movement remained undeterred in their mission meanwhile with news that a further two ships were on their way to Gaza carrying aid supplies. The ships are expected to arrive on Wednesday and Israel has said that it will intercept the vessels.

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