Sunday 26 March 2017

Hopes rise for release of five Irish still held in prison

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

HOPES rose last night that the five Irish citizens held in Israel would be soon released.

Political sources in Israel indicated that all of the people detained in the Gaza flotilla would be released and sent home by the authorities.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs was adopting a cautious response to the reports last night.

Earlier, Israel finally allowed Irish diplomats to meet the seven Irish citizens who had been detained after taking part in the Gaza aid flotilla.

The Israeli government's earlier refusal to provide access had been condemned as a breach of the Vienna Convention -- agreed almost 50 years ago -- which allows diplomats to operate freely in a foreign country.

Ireland's Ambassador to Israel Breifne O'Reilly and his consular official Conor Long were finally allowed to meet all seven citizens yesterday.

Ambassador O'Reilly met two of them, Shane Dillon and Isam Ben Ali, who are due home after signing declarations agreeing to their immediate deportation.

Mr Dillon was on board the Challenger II ship when it was boarded by Israeli commandos on Monday.

The five Irish citizens who remain in Israeli custody were visited yesterday for the first time by Irish Embassy official Conor Long in the Be'er sheva prison in the Negev Desert.

He reported that they showed no signs of being mistreated or suffering any injuries.

Those in custody include Dr Fintan Lane (42), former European elections candidate Fiachra O'Luain (27), Australia-based journalist Paul McGeough and Almadi al Harati.

Irish Independent

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