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      Greece Releases 'Audacity of Hope' Captain

      'Audacity of Hope' captain John Klusmire was released on his own recognizance, but faces charges of breaching Greece's Gaza-ban and endangerment.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 7/5/2011, 7:42 PM / Last Update: 7/5/2011, 7:23 PM

       

      The captain of the US 'Audacity of Hope' arrested for violating a Greek ban on sailing to Gaza from its ports was freed on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

      Greek authorities last week banned ships destined for Gaza from leaving Greek ports "for their safety".

      American John Klusmire, 60, was charged during a hearing on Tuesday with breaching the ban and putting lives at risk after being intercepted last week at sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

      When ordered to return to port Klusmire, ferrying mostly American passengers, refused, leading to a two-hour stand off that ended when Greek commandos boarded his vessel. 

      Nine passengers of the 'Audacity' were arrested while staging an impromptu protest outside the US embassy in Athens. Three remain in custody.

      “Our boat's captain is out of jail. The charges have not been dropped, but he is free to go anywhere, no bail, no restrictions,” the US ship's website announced late Tuesday afternoon.

      The flotilla, which organizers hope will consist of 8-9 ships carrying about 350 passengers, has been beset with financial, diplomatic, and mechanical troubles since the outset. It was originally planned to include 15 ships in the flotilla.

      But the chances of any of the ships arriving in Gaza seem increasingly remote due to the vigilance of the Greek coastguard and the rigid enforcement of the government's ban.

      About 20 Spanish citizens from the flotilla ship "Gernika," arrived at their nation's embassy in Athens on Tuesday to protest the ban and demand their government's support.

      The Greek coastguard on Monday intercepted the Canadian ship "Tahrir" which set sail for Gaza from Crete and arrested three people, including its 55-year-old Canadian owner.

      A French ship which had left Corsica was waiting for the rest of the flotilla in international waters, organizers said.