Czech camera man describes beating of Irish activist in Israeli prison


This interview is with the well known Czech camera man Jan Línek who was on the ship alongside the Mavi Marmara when the Israeli military killed at least 10 activists. In it he describes conditions on board, the struggle by the activists to protect the captain, how his camera was confiscated and how he was tricked into signing deportation papers on shore and then told he wasn't getting his camera back. When in prison they were denied sleep and he witnessed an Irish man being beaten in front of him.

How did you get on the ship with the other activists?
We had received an invitation, we thought that we are going on the OSN ship and that we will be there with some European ministers.

How did you feel about whole action at the beginning?
From the beginning I had a strange feeling about the whole thing. We had arrived in to the port on Sunday and we had not obtained any information, even though we were supposed to leave the next day. In the evening I was told that we will meet next morning at the hotel.

Was anyone checking to see if you have any weapons when you were boarding?
No. You could bring basically everything you wanted. There were over 40 people on board. As well as us there were Greeks, Americans and Germans.

Were you expecting any Israeli Intervention?
I was sleeping in my sleeping bag near the bridge deck, I had my camera on me all the time. I was waiting for something to happen.

How did you recognise that the Israeli boat was near?
The activists started training, how they would be defending themselves and how to make a human shield in order to protect the captain. And then weird things started happening. We were told that we should have signed a paper saying that we will not sue and also we had to sign that in case of intervention we are going in to a direct action voluntarily. I was the only one who did not sign this.

How far were you from the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, where over 10 activists were killed?
The ship (Mavi) was approximately 300–400 meters away from us, therefore I could film some of the ambush. At the same time, the attack was going on against our ship. So I was more interested in what was going on around me. I did not see the whole intervention; I’ve just seen how the speed boats and helicopters are going around their ship.

How did the Israelis seize your ship?
The Israeli ships were far away so we thought that they were just intimidating us. So we went to sleep. One minute later the speed boat started moving towards the Turkish ship. At the same moment two boats came alongside us as well. I was trying to film footage and Israeli soldiers started shooting paintballs at my camera. I went to the other side; they were also shooting paintballs there, after that they were on board and they were trying to get the captain. I made eye contact with the soldiers and they left me be. They were not attacking any journalists. They were just trying to take control of the boat.

How did the activists behave?
The activists were making human chains, but this did not hold for long. One American jumped overboard and they had to rescue him. The struggle took approximately 5 minutes.

Were you afraid?
You are afraid beforehand. It was clear that the Israeli soldiers knew there are journalists on board. They were trying to deal with us with kid gloves.

What happened after all of you were captured?
We stayed on board. They kept us sitting down. There was a lot of emotion even though Israeli soldiers were pointing out that they were not going to harm us. They seized our camera and I was told that I will get it back once I was onshore. There were some arguments, but the soldiers were behaving well. Some Israeli man was steering the ship.

What happened ashore?
They told us that we won't get our camera back and we are not allowed to carry anything, not even extra clothes. We were allowed to have only passports and medication. We were told that embassy workers are waiting for us. In a big tent in Ashdod port they told us that we are under arrest and we should sign deport papers.

Was there any other option instead of signing?
Sure, imprisonment. They explained to us that is foolish not to sign. Otherwise, they said the process will take a long time and we will have stay in Israel during that time and we will get deported anyway. I decided not to sign so I was taken aside by police officers, and one told me that if I will sign then I will be allowed to go home instantly and I will get a chance to speak with the ambassador.

What was your decision than?
I wanted to have more information so I signed it . Than he laughed at me, telling me that there won't be any phone call nor ambassador and I was locked in the cell for another 20 hours.

Where were you escorted afterwards?
They locked us into a van with extremely small cells. And then they parked that van in the direct sun, they turned off the air conditioning and they left us there. After 45 minutes we started moving. They had not told us where we were heading to. I did not see much but I recognized that we are near the airport. They were driving us around for an hour. We then arrived to 3rd terminal of Ben Gurion airport. We were locked into cells there.

How have they dealt with all of you?
There were 8 people in the cell. The light was on all the time. Every hour someone woke us up. I was not allowed to make any phone calls or make contact with embassy. I have not seen my belongings ever since. I was sharing my cell with the Captain and some Irish man. The Irish man was complaining. He wanted to smoke. They had beaten him.

Just in the cell, in front of you?
Yes, it was like one meter in front of me. After they were finished they told him to take different trousers to make the beating less visible. It was clear enough that they wanted to get their revenge. They were saying that all of us are terrorists and crooks. They were giving out to me that I am a 'fucking Russian'.

When did you have a first chance to contact the Embassy?
They came for a French man first and then afterwards for the Greek Captain. This captain had calmed me down a lot, because he was in touch with his embassy and he was giving us information. Around about that time I found out about the incident with 10 dead and 40 injured activists. At 1pm I was visited by the Czech embassy representative and I was told that I am flying away within next 45 minutes. It was a great relief.

Translated from the Czech original by Mairtin for