07/05/2011 10:59 EDT | Updated 09/04/2011 05:12 EDT

Gaza Flotilla: Two Canadians Arrested In Greece Released


OTTAWA - Greek authorities have released two Canadians they arrested for taking part in a flotilla trying to leave Greece for the Gaza Strip.

Greek authorities had arrested Soha Kneen, 40, of Ottawa and Sandra Ruch, 50, of Toronto, along with an Australian man.

"They have not been cleared. There are still charges pending against them," Ehab Lotayef, a Montreal-based spokesman for the ship, told The Canadian Press. He did not have other details.

He said that later in the day, Sandra Ruch, 50, of Toronto, whom he described as the main organizer handling logistics for the ship, was also arrested.

The Tahrir, bearing at least 30 Canadians, left Greece on Monday evening local time and was boarded 15 minutes later by armed officers from the Greek coast guard.

Lotayef said the latest information he has is that all Canadians are still on board the vessel.

"They’re waiting for the lawyers to tell them what to do because they are not clear on what will happen to them if they leave the boat," he said.

Lotayef said the Canadians are being fed and have enough water and that "healthwise and spiritwise, everybody is okay."

Activists earlier said the Greek coast guard had damaged the Canadian ship by ramming it against a cement pier after forcing it back to shore.

Activists first believed the ship was sinking due to the hard landing. While it appeared the damaged ship would stay afloat, it remained confined to a Greek port late Monday after an unsuccessful attempt to reach Gaza.

Within an hour, the ship was back at another Greek port, where supporters of its mission were gathering.

"They arrived back to land into a location ... where the coast guard forced them to go to. Not the original dock," said Lotayef.

"They slammed it into the concrete, into the pier-side."

Lotayef earlier said the ship was damaged and leaking diesel.

"We are holding the Greeks responsible for all that, totally unjustified action by the Greek government, arm-twisted by the Israelis," he said.

"It is a setback but it’s not the end of the road. The efforts will continue worldwide until this blockade ends."

The Canadian activists have called on Ottawa to denounce what they view as an unlawful act by the Greek government.

Lotayef said early Tuesday that he did not know if anyone connected with the protest had made any direct contact with federal officials.

The Tahrir was one of several vessels aiming to breach Israel’s sea blockade of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to deliver the activists’ aid.