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Thomas Linner

Detained and beaten by Israeli military

Thomas Linner

Thomas Linner, a Saskatoon man beaten and detained by Israeli forces Friday following a demonstration in the West Bank, says he is OK as his family eagerly awaits his return to Canada.

"I've been better, but I'm all right," said Linner in an interview with The StarPhoenix from Nablus, the West Bank city where he is being held.

Arrest: Injuries painful, but not life-threatening

"I am angry, I am upset, but for the most part, I'm just sad that it has come to this."

Linner, 25, was among 10 activists, including Americans and Europeans, taken into custody while trying to block Israeli bulldozers clearing land for a security fence near Tulkarem, said a spokesperson for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian group.

Robert Smith, media co-ordinator for the activists, said soldiers threw concussion grenades and tear gas, then dragged protesters away after negotiations between the group and Israeli troops failed. Linner, a student at the University of Saskatchewan, was roughed up during the incident, he said.

When reached by phone by Broadcast News at an Israeli police station, Linner described his injuries as not life-threatening.

"I got a rifle butt in the stomach, then a knee dropped on my stomach and then I was kicked two other times," by the Israeli soldiers, he said. "I am in a lot of pain, but I don't think there's anything that's actually life-threatening."

Tony Linner, Thomas' father, said his son phoned him at 1:45 p.m. Friday to let the family know he was physically all right and where he was being held.

Linner is allowed to have a cellphone in the Israeli police station where he is in custody, and assured his father he has been examined by a physician.

Linner flew to Tel Aviv Oct. 25 to aid in the ISM's October Campaign, a volunteer initiative to help Palestinian farmers with the annual olive harvest. He was due to return to Canada December.

Linner told Broadcast News that the group was demonstrating against the building of the security wall, which he claims is "confiscating land from the Palestinian farmers."

The Israeli soldiers "gave us 15 minutes to leave or they would respond with violence . . . ," said Linner. After "we were tear-gassed, I couldn't see for about five minutes. When I got my wits back they were grabbing people and trying to arrest them.

"I got in between them and people they were trying to arrest," he said, "and that's what led to my being rifle-butted."

Linner was standing in the front line when the Israelis attacked the group, said Smith. "He was attempting to calm the Palestinians in the crowd, trying to encourage them to not be violent in their protest of the Israeli aggression.

"But the Israeli forces accused him of antagonizing the Palestinians and drawing them into violent actions."

Tony Linner said he could understand the situation that led to his son's detainment and why Thomas chose to put himself in harm's way.

"Thomas, since he was very young, has always been very involved," said Tony, citing his son's long-standing participation in groups like Oxfam and a model United Nations.

"It's not that I expected that Thomas would be involved in any military action, but on the other hand you need to realize that you're in a volatile area."

An army spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity, said soldiers detained the demonstrators after they refused to leave the area. They were later transferred to police custody, she said.

Thomas Linner said while he and the other prisoners are not being told very much, he expects to be deported and flown to either Montreal or Toronto in the next two days.