Cynthia McKinney.
Photo: ANDY MANIS / AP
Photo: ANDY MANIS / AP

Cynthia McKinney back in the U.S.

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is back on U.S. soil after spending almost a week in an Israeli jail.

Her father, former state Rep. Billy McKinney, said she called her parents in Atlanta around 2 a.m. Tuesday, after her plane had landed in New York City.

"She's in [Washington] D.C. safe and sound," Billy McKinney said.

Friends met her at the airport and "they had a little ceremony for her in New York" before she traveled on to Washington to meet her son, who is starting law school there, Billy McKinney said.

Cynthia McKinney had been in custody since Tuesday, when she and 20 others, members of the "Free Gaza Movement, " were swept up by the Israeli Navy while allegedly trying to sail through a navy blockade.

They had left Cyprus last Tuesday on the Greek-registered ship Arion with the intention of delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Their ship was stopped when they tried to pass through the Israeli Navy's security blockade at Ashdod. Their ship was seized and they were taken into custody.

Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. and European Union classify as a terrorist organization.

Israeli officials promised to deliver by ground the humanitarian supplies that were on the boat.

Family, friends and supporters say Cynthia McKinney believed they were in international waters and free to pass."The Israelis hijacked us because we wanted to give crayons to the children of Gaza," Cynthia McKinney said in a recorded statement delivered via telephone and posted on the Internet site YouTube [
].

They were held in jail a few extra days, until they could appear in an Israeli court, because Cynthia McKinney and others on the Arion declined to sign a document Israeli officials offered.

She believed signing the document, written in Hebrew, would be admitting they had violated Israel's blockade, her parents said. The Atlanta office of the Consulate General of Israel said in a statement last week that signing the form only acknowledged their deportation.

McKinney's parents said their daughter was released from custody Sunday night and taken immediately to Ben Gurion International Airport for her 15-hour flight to the United States.

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