'Wallander' author tells of ordeal on Gaza convoy

'We heard gunfire, then at 4.30 in the morning, they came for us'
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The Independent Online

Henning Mankell, the Swedish crime writer whose books inspired the Wallander TV series, has accused Israel of going out "to commit murder" and called for apartheid-style sanctions to be imposed following this week's storming of the Gaza aid convoy.

The 62-year-old author, who was one of 11 Swedes on the six-vessel flotilla, held an impromptu press conference in Berlin, the day after being deported from Israel following 24 hours in a cell.

"The Israelis were out to commit murder – I don't understand why they used so much force. It was the most stupid thing they could do," he told journalists.

Mr Mankell's vessel was a small Swedish cargo ship, Sofia, which was laden with cement and prefab homes. He described how Israeli patrol boats and helicopters suddenly appeared while the aid convoy was still in international waters and began boarding the Turkish cruise ship, Mavi Marmara.

"We could see the commandos landing on the big ship from helicopters, about a kilometre away from where we were. We could hear gunfire but they had cut all radio links so we could not talk to them," he said. "Then at 4.30 in the morning they came for our vessel."

Mr Mankell, whose father-in-law was the late film director Ingmar Bergman, said commandos wearing masks and brandishing machine guns stormed their ship while most of the passengers were gathering on the bridge.

"They got very aggressive and ordered us to come down. There was one older man who was a little slow, so the Israelis attacked him with an electric stun gun. He was in a lot of pain. So was another passenger who was covered in paint after being hit with a paint ball missile," the author recounted.

The commandos searched the ship thoroughly and emerged waving a razor and a metal-box cutting tool, which they claimed were "weapons" intended to be used against them. All the passengers were then herded into a group, with armed guards standing watch as the ship was taken to Israel.

"When we got off... we were made to walk down a corridor of armed commandos who filmed all of us with cameras. They stole my mobile phone, my money, my clothes and my credit cards," Mr Mankell said. The author said he was held in a cell for 24 hours along with an MP from Sweden's Green Party, and then deported "without his socks".

Earlier in an interview with Swedish tabloid Expressen, the crime writer was asked if he had any regrets. "Absolutely not," he said.

He said the time had come to introduce sanctions on the Jewish state. "We've tried many other things but the Israelis refuse to listen. I think we should use our experience from South Africa. We know the sanctions had a great effect. It took a long time but it worked."

Mr Mankell told his Berlin audience that the Israelis had clearly recognised him. An intelligence officer was detailed to accompany him, and after appearing in court, where he was accused of "illegally entering" Israel, the judge confided: "I know your books and I like them."