Green Party Leader writes to Foreign Secretary over detention of activists in Israel

Several British citizens, including Pippa Bartolotti, Deputy Leader of Wales Green Party, have been detained in Israel this weekend while en route to Bethlehem for a human rights demonstration.

The group was held at Ben Gurion airport and were then transferred to Givon Prison. It remains unclear under what legislation they are being held, and whether any charges have been brought.

There are also reports that they have been denied food and water for long periods of time.

The group may now be faced with deportation.

Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP has written to Foreign Secretary William Hague, saying in part, “There does not appear to be any grounds for these citizens being detained, as travelling to the West Bank is meant to be permitted for British citizens.

“Does Israel now have a policy of seeking to prevent human rights defenders from entering the occupied territories or entering Israel?”

She encouraged William Hague to “press for these British citizens to be immediately released and for moves to deport them to be called to a halt, so they can continue with their peaceful visit.”

Letter from Caroline Lucas to William Hague, in full:

Ref: ML/N0004/CL/11.07.11

Dear William,

I am sure you will share my concern at reports that British citizens, including the Deputy Leader of Wales Green Party, were detained this weekend at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport. They were en route to Bethlehem as part of an attempt to raise awareness of the continuing siege of Gaza and of human rights violations by the Israeli authorities.

There does not appear to be any grounds for these citizens being detained, as travelling to the West Bank is meant to be permitted for British citizens.

I understand that the group are being threatened with deportation. There are also reports that they have been denied food and water for long periods of time.

I would urge you to contact your Israeli counterparts at the earliest opportunity and question them about why peaceful activists have been treated in this way. Does Israel now have a policy of seeking to prevent human rights defenders from entering the occupied territories or entering Israel? I would also urge you to press for these British citizens to be immediately released and for moves to deport them to be called to a halt so they can continue with their peaceful visit.

I appreciate that consular staff have met with the detainees and hope that this will be backed up by firm political action by the FCO so that this group of British citizens, and others in the future, can exercise their right to freely and peacefully travel to the West Bank.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Caroline

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