Tyneside campaigner Mick Bowman arrested in Palestine

Mick Bowman during his arrest
Mick Bowman during his arrest

A human rights campaigner from Tyneside claims he was beaten and stood on after being arrested during a protest in Palestine.

Mick Bowman, 57, from Throckley, also says he was pepper-sprayed in the eyes from six inches during his arrest on Friday afternoon, following which he was detained for 24 hours before being released.

His case is being taken up with the Israeli authorities by an MEP in the region who claimed his apparent treatment was “unacceptable” and “inappropriate.”

Mr Bowman, a member of the Newcastle Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (NPSC) and involved with the city’s Amnesty International Branch, was taking part in a peaceful protest with an international solidarity movement against Israeli treatment of a native at the village of Bil’in in the West Bank on Friday afternoon.

He was arrested by the Israeli occupying forces.

Mick Bowman during his arrest
Mick Bowman during his arrest

In a message sent by Mr Bowman to the NPSC, he claims he was arrested for allegedly assaulting an Israeli soldier.

He wrote: “That was why they had detained and restrained me with ‘appropriate force’ (standing on my hands and thumping me etc to get the plastic cuffs on and then pepper-spraying my eyes from a distance of six inches after I had been cuffed but refused to stand up).

“The military were extremely aggressive from the outset in how they responded to what was a peaceful demonstration.

“I gave up counting the number of tear gas grenades fired after I counted 50 or so – the eventual number will have been in the hundreds – and stun grenades and rubber coated steel bullets were fired at us all.”

Mr Bowman, a mental health social worker in Ashington, Northumberland, was held for 24 hours during which time he was processed by the military, interviewed by the Israeli civil police and taken to court, before being released on Saturday night, with conditions including that he does not return to the West Bank.

The Labour party Newcastle City Council candidate for North Heaton and Northumberland UNISON representative wrote in the message: “I was overwhelmed and really touched to see all the messages of support and solidarity from friends and comrades in the UK, thank you all, it really meant a lot to me.

“Let’s all redouble our efforts to work towards a free Palestine. In solidarity.”

He has now travelled to Jerusalem and is due to return to the UK on Thursday.

Tony Pierre, a member of the NSPC who visited Burmese refugee camps with Mr Bowman three years ago, said there had been “a lot of activity” among Mr Bowman’s supporters back home to find out where he had been taken following his arrest, with his family having also contacted the British Consulate in Israel.

Mick Bowman during his arrest
Mick Bowman during his arrest

He said: “Mick is held in really high regard in the area.”

NSPC chairman Alex Snowdon added: “He has 100% support.”

Labour MEP for the North East Judith Kirton-Darling has vowed to take up Mr Bowman’s apparent treatment with the Israeli ambassadors to the UK and European Union.

She said: “Obviously it is important to make it clear that it is not acceptable to treat people who have gone to protest peacefully in this way.

“To use that amount of force on peaceful protestors who are raising concerns about human rights abuse and demolitions of property and the expansions of the settlements is really inappropriate.

“We have a duty to raise that with the Israeli authorities and to show that the world is watching what is going on.”

Mr Bowman has worked with the Voluntary Services Overseas in Malaysia.