West Chiltington woman arrested in Middle East

A WEST Chiltington pensioner was imprisoned in Israel after she was part of a group attempting to visit Bethlehem.

Audrey Gray, a 77-year-old former nurse, was arrested on Friday (July 8) after she arrived in Tel Aviv with a group of 11 people as part of the British arm of the Welcome to Palestine initiative.

She was released on Tuesday evening and was deported back to England, along with another six British people, after two people were released the day before.

The British leg of the trip had been co-ordinated by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which said the group had been arrested after telling airport security about their intention to visit Bethlehem.

Sofia MacLeod, secretary of the SPSC, said it was not clear what charges the group had been arrested on.

She said: “Many of the group are retired or elderly and there’s a concern for their health.

“So hearing stories they’ve been denied water and have been put into a prison for quite a long time in a very over-crowded space is worrying.

“But their spirits are high, because they know they’ve done nothing wrong.”

The group members told their captors they did not want to return home and wished to continue on their trip to Bethlehem, in the West Bank.

As a protest against not being allowed to make a phone call, many of them went on hunger strike until police allowed them to make calls.

Sofiah added: “Their imprisonment does raise awareness about what the Palestinians are going through.”