Gaza activist returns home, claims he was beaten


A crowd greeted him at San Francisco International Airport like a hero. There was a group of about 20 people waiting there to meet Paul Larudee. They wanted to talk to him and make sure he was okay.

They did not expect to wait hours to do so.

Larudee's family and friends worried and waited outside of customs. The activist's flight landed from Paris, but only after three hours of delays and questions from customs agents did he appear.

Larudee is one of five Bay Area residents who was a part of a recent humanitarian convoy to Gaza. The convoy, made up of six ships, was intercepted by Israeli soldiers and chaos erupted on deck of the Mavi Marmara. Nine activists were killed and as many as ten Israeli soldiers were injured.

Larudee was on board the Sfendoni, but still told ABC7 he was beaten by Israelis, removing his shirt to show the marks.

"I felt that I needed to do non-violent resistance. That consisted of not following orders, not walking to the places that they wanted me to walk, they were forced into carrying me for example," he said. "But, they thought they could get me to do what they wanted me to do by applying pain and they beat me, essentially, six times in two and a half days."

However, Israeli Consul General Akiva Tor told ABC7, "Once he was in custody, I am certain he was not abused by Israeli forces."

There are also allegations by the Jewish Community Relations Council that Larudee and his group support Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza region. Associated Press photos from 2008 show Larudee with Hamas's prime minister shaking hands, receiving medals and having dinner.

"They're being given accolades as if they're peaceful humanitarians and in fact they are aiding and abetting a terrorist organization," Yitzhak Santis said.

When asked about the dinner at the prime minister's house in 2008, Larudee replied, "Yes they are government officials. We are happy to accept invitations from all these people. That doesn't mean that we support them."

The Israeli government insists their soldiers were attacked by the activists first.

Larudee says he will continue to fight for those in Gaza. He says that may even mean being part of another convoy to the region in the future.

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