Detained Canadian expected home soon

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Family and friends of one of three Canadians detained after Israeli soldiers stormed an aid convoy off the Gaza coast say they've been told he'll be back home within days.

But the identities and fates of the two other Canadians remained a mystery Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs said it was aware of three Canadian citizens who were taken into custody following the violent confrontation between pro-Palestinian activists and the Israeli military that left nine people dead.

Kevin Neish is shown in an undated handout photo. Friends of the Victoria, B.C., man who was aboard a convoy of ships stormed by Israeli soldiers off the Gaza coast are anxiously waiting to hear from him. Photo by The Canadian Press

Vancouver -

Family and friends of one of three Canadians detained after Israeli soldiers stormed an aid convoy off the Gaza coast say they've been told he'll be back home within days.

But the identities and fates of the two other Canadians remained a mystery Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs said it was aware of three Canadian citizens who were taken into custody following the violent confrontation between pro-Palestinian activists and the Israeli military that left nine people dead.

A department spokeswoman said consular officials were working with Israeli authorities to provide assistance to the trio, but the ministry did not release their names or further details.

The lack of information sparked questions on Parliament Hill, where opposition leaders urged Ottawa to bring them home as soon as possible.

But the only question friends and family of Victoria resident Kevin Neish were asking was what they're going to do when they're reunited with him.

Neish's daughter Jennifer said she was told her father would be deported from Israel within three days.

"I just got the call from the consulate saying they have seen Kevin Neish and he is alive and well and will be deported from Israel in the next 72 hours," she said in an e-mail.

Neish's friend Anne Hansen said he'll be getting a big hug when he's back on Canadian soil.

"I wish I could be the first in line but I probably won't be," she said with a laugh.

Neish, a 53-year-old retired marine engineer, was aboard one of six vessels on a mission to carry humanitarian relief to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

He was going to repair a well in a Palestinian community in Gaza but, on the ship, he was assigned to non-violently "defend" journalists in the event of a military boarding, gaining them enough time to file stories.

"It should be interesting, to say the least," he wrote late last month on the website Dialogue with Diversity.

Neish's brother Steve was relieved that his younger sibling would soon be home.

"I'm going to congratulate him on a job well done," he said in a telephone interview.

"He's more aware of how bad the incident was and how terribly it turned out. He's more aware of that than anybody. I don't think we have to talk too much to him about that."

Neish's friend Zoe Blunt said he'll get "a hero's welcome."

A friend said Abbas Al Lawati, a graduate of Montreal's Concordia University, was also aboard one of the ships.

Al Lawati, a journalist based in Dubai for the English-language Gulf News, had been reporting and blogging from the ship, his friend Laith Marouf said in Montreal.

The Gulf News reported Tuesday that Al Lawati, a native of Oman, was safe.

In Ottawa, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House if the Canadians would be returned as soon as possible.

Harper said the government is providing consular assistance to those involved, but said little else.

Organizations: Foreign Affairs, Gulf News, Concordia University

Geographic location: Gaza Strip, Vancouver, Ottawa Israel Parliament Hill Victoria Montreal Dubai Oman

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  • Blackadder
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Deported??? People are expelled and deported from places they want to stay NOT from places they are being held captive as a result of an act of piracy in international waters. These activists are being RELEASED. period!!!! Bravo for your humanitarian efforts.

  • Blackadder
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Deported??? People are expelled and deported from places they want to stay NOT from places they are being held captive as a result of an act of piracy in international waters. These activists are being RELEASED. period!!!! Bravo for your humanitarian efforts.