Released American Says Worst Part Was Being Denied Access To U.S. Officials With AM-Israel
Undated (AP) _ One of two Americans released Sunday after their arrests by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank said the most frightening part of the ordeal was being denied access to U.S. authorities or an attorney.
″It was confusion and of course fright, because when you’re denied access to a lawyer and you’re denied access to your own government, it’s frightening to realize that you’re cut off from any sort of legal protection,″ Alison Glick, 25, said in a telephone interview with WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.
Ms. Glick said the arresting authorities didn’t tell the two why they were being held.
Israeli officials allege that Ms. Glick, of North College Hill, Ohio, and John Benvenuto, 42, of Boston were carrying posters bearing the names of slain Palestinians in Ramallah, a West Bank city. They were arrested Saturday on charges of incitement.
Benvenuto’s mother, who talked to her son by telephone Sunday morning, said she was relieved that the two were unharmed during the ordeal, which lasted more than 24 hours.
″He said if he hadn’t been an American, they would have beaten him,″ said Marian Benvenuto of Rochester, N.Y. She said her son had written to her of Israelis beating Palestinian protesters.
Mrs. Benvenuto said her son told her the two were not demonstrating at the time of their arrest, though she said her son has been involved in past demonstrations against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Benvenuto and Ms. Glick teach at a private school in of Ramallah.
Israeli police tried to make Benvenuto, an art teacher, sign a confession in Hebrew that he was guilty of incitement, said Mrs. Benvenuto. However, she said, her son doesn’t speak Hebrew fluently and refused to sign.
Authorities didn’t allow the two to consult a lawyer or American officials until early Sunday, when David Goode, a representative of the U.S. Consulate in east Jerusalem, was permitted to see them, said Mrs. Benvenuto. The two were released shortly afterward.
The Israelis have been trying to quiet three months of protest against their 20-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. More than 70 Palestinians have been reported killed by Israeli forces during that time.
Benvenuto and Ms. Glick were arrested in a street near the Friends Girls’ School, a Quaker-run facility in Ramallah, Mrs. Benvenuto said.
″He was just walking down the street, he and this other teacher, going home for lunch,″ she said. ″Soldiers (from the Israeli army) stopped them and searched them and then turned them over to the police in Ramallah.
″He said he and this girl each had a plastic shopping bag and inside the bag, he had pieces of cardboard with names of different Palestinians who had been killed (allegedly by Israeli occupation forces).″
She said she wasn’t sure if the names were intended for use in a protest, but that the two were not protesting at the time.
″He was in different protest marches, he’s been tear-gassed, and obviously they have a picture of him,″ she said. ″The American consul (Goode) told me it was a warning to John to back off and mind his own business.″
Mrs. Benvenuto said her son believed press coverage of the arrests prompted the Israelis to release the two Americans early. He was initially told he would be detained for 48 hours.