'Captive' aid workers arrive in Greece after ship trip

Image caption,
The volunteers were planning to head to Gaza when the dispute happened.

A ship carrying a group of 10 aid workers - including seven Britons who alleged that the captain had held them captive - has docked at a Greek port.

The captain of Strofades IV took the volunteers to his native Greece after leaving his Libya moorings on Thursday.

But ship managers said the "activists" jumped on board and the captain set sail to stop others boarding amid fears they would divert the ship to Gaza.

Officials from the Foreign Office were at the port to meet the aid workers.

Earlier Greek commandos boarded the ship as it waited outside Piraeus Harbour in Athens following the journey from Libya's Derna Harbour.

Ellie Merton, the London liaison for the group - part of the Road to Hope aid convoy - confirmed all of those who were on-board were safe and uninjured.

She said Kieran Turner, originally from Liverpool and among those on board the boat, had told her via the telephone that the Greek authorities had been "lovely" and "very sympathetic" and were looking after the volunteers.

The FCO said the British Embassy in Athens had been in contact with the ship's owners and the Greek authorities throughout the incident.


Earlier Tauqir Sharif from Walthamstow in London told the BBC the situation had been worrying.

"Six of us are Muslims and have beards, it's not looking good," he said, adding that the captain had called them terrorists.

The other British nationals on-board include Mustapha El-Guerbouzi, Raheal Parveez, Yunus Malik, Nagib Elgarib Elbarrami, who are all from London.

Khalid Mohamed Omar Ali, whose home town has not yet been reported, is also from the UK.

Algerian Aziz Mekkati, and David Callender and Kenneth O'Keefe from Ireland, are also on-board.

Image caption,
The volunteers say they have been searched by Greek commandos

Mr Sharif, who is also known as Tox, was also on the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara which tried to breach an Israeli naval blockade in May this year.

The charity said the captain had become irritable in the port area over payments, but insisted the group had given the money in cash to a shipping agent.

She said the captain appeared to fear that the agent would not pay him the £56,000 ($90,000) fee for the trip to Gaza.

But the Greek managing company behind the Strofades IV has denied reports the aid workers were held against their will.

Ionian Bridge Shipmanagement said 10 of around 150 activists had jumped on board the ship at Derna, forcing the captain to set off to prevent all of them boarding and taking over the ship.

It said the captain was afraid more would board and divert the ship to Gaza, which is under an Israeli naval blockade.

The company said in a statement: "We never intended to transfer the activists, because we realised they wanted to lead the ship not to El Arish but Gaza, to break the embargo and pitch us against the Israeli navy. We wanted to leave, fearing for our lives."

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