Israeli troops charged with stealing laptops off aid ships

Fri, Aug 20, 2010, 01:00

AN ISRAELI officer and three other soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of stealing laptop computers and cellular phones from Gaza-bound aid ships seized by Israel in a naval raid on May 31st.

After the commando interception the Israeli navy sailed the vessels to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where the humanitarian aid was unloaded and the international activists, including Irish citizens, were questioned before being deported.

The ships were returned by Israel earlier this month.

An officer with the rank of first lieutenant, who had access to the ships at Ashdod port, is suspected of stealing between four and six laptop computers from the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, and selling them to other soldiers, who were also arrested.

Lawyers representing the soldiers who purchased the computers said their clients had no idea the laptops were stolen by the officer from the aid flotilla.

Activists aboard the six boats in the flotilla complained shortly after their release that personal goods and equipment seized by Israel had not been returned. In June, an Italian journalist sailing on one of the vessels claimed that his credit card was used to purchase items after it was confiscated by the Israeli authorities.

Army officers expressed shock at the alleged theft. “If the suspicions prove to be true, there must be a serious problem in the army in terms of values,” a senior officer said.

Labour party member of the Knesset parliament Eitan Cabel said the military must handle the affair in line with the law. “This is an embarrassing, humiliating and infuriating act,” he said.

Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, who sailed on the Mavi Marmara, expressed no surprise at the reports of looting. “People who come as pirates to kill have no problem stealing,” she said.