A Kiwi activist has arrived home and hugged his partner in relief after Israeli troops allegedly tasered and beat him when boarding a ship carrying medical aid to Gaza.
Unite Union leader Mike Treen arrived at Auckland Airport yesterday to supporter's chants of "Freedom for Palestine", after he was earlier detained by Israel for five days.
He accused the country of unlawfully attacking and detaining the Al Awda vessel he was sailing on with international campaigners.
Israel accused Treen of being part of a flotilla of ships attempting to illegally sail through its naval blockade of Gaza.
Israel's Embassy in New Zealand said the county had set the blockade up as self-defence to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza for "terror organisation" Hamas.
However, Treen said his vessel had still been in international waters, about 40 miles from Israel and closer to Egypt, when five Israeli warships loomed ahead.
Up to 30 troops in balaclavas then boarded his ship, using force to burst through groups of activists with linked arms, Treen alleged.
He said most of those on board the Al Awda were older, with an average age of 56, and that the ship's captain had told the Israeli navy over the radio they had no right to board the vessel.
"This was an unlawful act, we were in international waters," Treen said in Auckland Airport's arrivals area.
"We had linked arms to make the point that we weren't just surrendering without a protest."
Treen said he and a Swedish man acted as a "last line of defence" by linking arms in front of the door leading to the captain's bridge.
The soldiers then beat the Swede and stomped on Treen's toes and tasered him in the cheek, before ordering the Al Awda's captain to take the vessel to Israel, Treen alleged.
"They beat the [captain], then threatened to execute him ... [it was] a savage and immediate beating of him," Treen claimed.
Treen claimed he was later roughly frogmarched into detention where his clothing, cash and passport were taken from him.
Most of his belongings were not returned and he only got his passport back once he touched down in New Zealand, he said.
Israel's Embassy in New Zealand said the naval blockade was necessary to keep Israeli citizens safe from Hamas, which it said New Zealand and other countries recognised as a terror organisation.
"Make no mistake, Hamas attacks Israeli civilians on a regular basis and the flotilla to Gaza will not promote peace or assist the Palestinian people – it will only inflame the situation in the region," the embassy said in a statement.
It said Hamas had turned Gaza into a "terror centre" and called the actions of Treen's flotilla of boats a "cynical public relations stunt" motivated by anti-Semitism.
Treen said the activists were trying to raise awareness for those living in Gaza, who were being kept in an "open prison" by Israel without enough food or medicine.
He also accused a Kiwi diplomat of taking sides with Israel rather than representing him as a New Zealand citizen.
He claimed the unamed New Zealand consulate official in Israel interviewed him in the presence of that country's security services and did not believe Treen when he said his belongings had been "stolen".
The official also implied it was Treen's fault he had been tasered, the activist claimed.
"Then he said I didn't need a lawyer I just needed to sign the deportation paper straight away and I can be sent home," Treen said.
"It was a disgrace, unprofessional, he shouldn't be in that job."
A Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said New Zealand's Honorary Consul to Israel visited Treen in detention and provided him with "an appropriate level of consular assistance".
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to advise against all travel to Gaza," he said.
"This includes any attempt to enter Gaza by sea in breach of Israeli navy restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade."