Former Iraq hostage jailed, assaulted and deported from Israel

By agency reporter
June 19, 2008

A Christian peace activist who spent 188 days as a hostage in Iraq has been jailed, assaulted and forcibly deported from Israel.

Harmeet Sooden, a peace activist from New Zealand, was deported yesterday after four days imprisonment, having been told he was a 'threat to the security of the State of Israel'.

Sooden, along with Tom Fox, Norman Kember, and James Loney, was held in captivity for four months while working with Christian Peacemaker's Teams (CPT) in Iraq.

"I am still reeling from this experience. It dredged up some old feelings. I told them honestly that I had come to revisit Yad Vashem, visit historic sites and volunteer for ISM (International Solidarity Movement). They never disclosed the official reason for denying me, the Ministry of Interior official told me that I was a 'threat to the security of the State of Israel'," Sooden said of his time in Israeli captivity.

When Sooden arrived early in the morning on June 14th he was immediately questioned by the authorities, who attempted to deport him the first time that night, without letting him talk to a lawyer.

He resisted the first deportation and was transferred to "Unit 9". Later they attempted to deport him again, assaulting him in the process and dragging him on to the plane.

The pilot refused to fly and so he avoided the second deportation attempt. Sooden was later successfully deported with security officers aboard the plane.

Sooden was targetted because of his past involvement with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Sooden was active previously in Nablus and Jenin with ISM and was part of a two week delegation to Iraq which turned into four months of captivity, during which one of his co-hostages, Tom Fox, was murdered.

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