Deported Israel campaigners return to the UK

Two British campaigners have arrived back in the UK after they were detained in Israel while trying to visit the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Mick Napier, 64, chairman of The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and retired university lecturer John Lynes, 83, flew back into Luton Airport early this morning after being deported by officials.

They were amongst 13 British people, including four Scots, who were detained by soldiers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport on Friday before being put in prison.

University lecturer Mr Napier said that all members of his group began a hunger strike after information on charges against them was not provided and they were denied a phone call.

The 11 other group members remain in Israel and are refusing to eat, but some are expected to return to the UK later today.

"Israel has cross another red line," said Mr Napier, whose campaign group was planning to join 700 people from around the world invited to visit Bethlehem by families there.

"We were chained, handcuffed and detained for no apparent reason - we had committed no crimes - no UK or Israeli law was breached.

"We were denied any information about any charges against us and were also denied a telephone call over the entire period we were in prison.

"It was a situation of lawlessness."

Mr Napier said around 124 people taking part on the planned visit were held by Israeli officials. His group were amongst around 50 taken to Ramle Prison where they were placed on a wing for illegal immigrants.

"Despite repeated efforts we were unable to find out what we were supposed to be guilty of - it was a ridiculous situation," added Mr Napier.

The other Scots detained were Frank Thomas, 66, a retired statistician from Edinburgh; Ian Stewart-Hargreaves, who lives on the Isle of Lewis; and Joy Cherkaoui, a community worker from Dumfries and Galloway.

The English group members were Mr Lynes; Audrey Gray, 77, a retired nurse from West Chiltington; Val Kitchen, 68, from Tonbridge; Anne Gray, 66, a retired academic from London; and Les Levidow, 61, an Open University research fellow who works in Milton Keynes.

There were also four Welsh passengers: Pippa Bartolotti, 57, deputy leader of the Wales Green Party; Dee Murphy, 56, from Swansea, founder member of Swansea Palestine Community Link; Joyce Giblin and Fiona Williams.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that a number of British nationals were detained at the airport in Tel Aviv on Friday.

"All the British nationals currently detained pending deportation have been visited by consular staff from the embassy in Tel Aviv and we have been in contact with families in the UK.

"We understand they will be deported in the next few days."