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Left Alliance MP held in Israel over unauthorised attempt to enter Gaza

The MP said she resisted pressure to sign documents in Hebrew about her alleged offences.

Anna Kontula
Left Alliance MP Anna Kontula. Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

Israeli authorities detained Left Alliance MP Anna Kontula on the Israeli-Gaza border on Monday, according to reports first published by daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Kontula was held as part of an international activist group that was trying to organise a demonstration on the Gaza border to draw attention to the situation in the region. The group intended unauthorised entry into Gaza by bypassing legal routes.

"I was on my way to a demonstration and the intention was to enter Gaza to protest the humanitarian crisis caused by embargoes there,” Kontula told news agency STT.

Illegal entry into Gaza carries the risk of diplomatic repercussions. Kontula said that she had considered her actions in advance.

"In my view the attitude whereby we should not criticise violations of international law because it might weaken [bilateral] relations sounds very 70s," she declared.

Kontula said that she also intended to protest the arms trade between Finland and Israeli companies, which she added must be stopped. The lawmaker said that Finland’s arms exports to Israel promote continued Israeli occupation and military activities in the region.

"Last autumn we received a great deal of information that led us to anticipate that the arms trade between Finland and Israel is growing and not declining as should be the case with a violator of international law," she declared.

MP resisted pressure to sign document

Kontula told Yle that she had been detained for more than 10 hours until Monday evening. The Left Alliance MP said that for the most part, she had been treated well during her detention.

"Attempts were made to pressure me into signing a document in Hebrew, in which I would have acknowledged various suspicions, such as endangering security, in addition to other suspected crimes," Kontula said.

She added that she did not sign the document. Kontula is expected to return to Finland on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told media in Parliament on Tuesday that officials would look into the Kontula case. He said that the foreign ministry follows lawmakers’ trips and also provides them with support if necessary.

"I still don’t know enough about the Kontula case, but of course members of parliament should have immunity and their work should be respected," Haavisto noted.

"Of course one should always abide by a country’s rules and regulations. But we will see if we can assist in this case," he added.

Edit: Updated on 15 January at 10.50pm to reflect that Kontula was detained for at attempt at unlawful entry into Gaza. Also updated to include additional comments from Kontula and from Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.

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