Throckley human rights campaigner vows to keep up Palestine fight

Mick Bowman, 56, of Throckley, said he was pepper sprayed then cuffed when arrested by Israeli security forces

Human rights campaigner Mick Bowman back in Newcastle after his arrest and detention by Israeli forces in the West Bank Palestine
Human rights campaigner Mick Bowman back in Newcastle after his arrest and detention by Israeli forces in the West Bank Palestine

A Tyneside human rights campaigner who claims he was beaten and stood on while being arrested during a protest in Palestine has vowed to keep up his fight.

Mick Bowman, 56, from Throckley, says he was first blasted in the eyes with pepper spray during his arrest by the Israeli occupying forces, then detained for more than a day before being released.

But he said the episode had not put him off returning to the Israeli-occupied state - and that it had only increased the “sense of outrage” he felt at the treatment of Palestinians.

Mr Bowman, who is a member of the Newcastle Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (NPSC) and is involved with the city’s Amnesty International Branch, was making his second visit to the Middle Eastern country with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

He was taking part in a locally organised peaceful protest against what he called the Israeli “theft of land” in the West Bank on the afternoon of February 13, when soldiers began launching tear gas at those involved.

Mr Bowman, who has worked with the Voluntary Services Overseas and is involved with the Northumberland branch of trade union UNISON, said he was taking photos as part of a press pack while a man was being arrested when he was similarly detained.

“The army threw stun grenades in our direction. I was in the process of running away from stun grenades along with other members of the press.

“As I was running away I was jumped on from behind by three or four soldiers.

“They stood on my hands. They were punching me in the sides. One of them grabbed my nose, I was fearful my nose was going to be broken.

“I let them use plastic handcuffs. I stood up, one of them pepper sprayed my eyes from a few inches, which was extremely painful.

“I was temporarily blind.”

Mr Bowman and the other arrested man were taken to a military base before being blindfolded then handcuffed and taken to a civilian police station.

They were interviewed by police with Mr Bowman told he had been arrested for allegedly assaulting a soldier - a claim he says is “completely untrue.”

Mr Bowman was then moved to a prison in Jerusalem, where he was again handcuffed and put in leg shackles.

A lawyer from the ISM then appeared in court on his behalf and bail of 1,500 Shekels - around £300 - was agreed.

Mr Bowman was released at 10pm on February 14 on the condition he did not return to the West Bank for 15 days.

He flew back to the UK on Thursday.

Reflecting on his ordeal, Mr Bowman, a mental health social worker in Ashington, Northumberland and the Newcastle City Council Labour candidate for North Heaton, said: “It may sound strange, I was not terrified. I was more very angry, not just because this was happening to me engaged in a peaceful protest.

“What happened to me was just a minor inconvenience in comparison to the oppression and brutality which Palestinians have to face every day as a result of the occupation.

“I was more angry than frightened.”

He said the episode has not deterred him.

“Now I am back I am going to be continuing with my activism and campaigning for justice for the Palestinian people.

“I will definitely go back, I definitely want to go back as part of my solidarity work.

“This experience has not put me off at all. It has just increased my sense of outrage at what the state of Israel is doing to the Palestinians everyday.

“I certainly do not feel any regret for what I did, being part of the protest.”

Mr Bowman has authorised North East Labour MEP Judith Kirton-Darling to ask the British Consultate in Tel Aviv to raise his treatment with the Israeli authorities.

The Israeli authorities have yet to comment on the matter.

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