'I thought police were going to execute me'
A BRISTOL peace activist has spoken to The Post about his deportation from Israel during which he claims he was subjected to a "mock execution".
Tom Woodhead, pictured, described the moment when he says Israeli Defence Forces cocked their rifles next to his masked head and began to scream.
The 28-year-old had been detained by Israeli border police during a protest he was observing for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the village of Kafr Qaddoum, in the occupied West Bank.
He told The Post he feared for his life during a 12-day ordeal after his arrest, where he says he was beaten and threatened before being sent home.
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The activist, who had been volunteering for the Palestine-based nonviolent watchdog ISM, was arrested on Friday, March 1, at a routine protest organised by Palestinians over access to a road out of their village.
Mr Woodhead said he was detained in an ambush as a group of protesters were forced back to their village. He believes he was mistaken for a Palestinian and accused of throwing rocks and taking part in an illegal demonstration.
He said a confrontation sparked stone throwing from Palestinians, leading to a chase back to the village in which he was caught up.
He said: "As we were running back to the village boarder police popped out of nowhere and grabbed three people running, including me.
"I was punched twice in the face and hit over the back of the head with something which people have told me since was a rifle butt.
"I was taken away in a van and when we got out I was handcuffed, blindfolded and hooded. They then started screaming at me to face the floor. They loaded a gun next to my head and I began to shake all over thinking the worst."
Mr Woodhead said that it became clear to him later that this was a tactic of intimidation before he says he was interrogated.
But he added: "At the time the first thing going through my head was 'this is an execution'. I feared for my life."
He claims he was transferred to a police station in the settlement of Ariel where he was contacted by the British Embassy who had been notified.
A meeting was arranged and it is claimed a British official met Mr Woodhead in Givon Prison in Ramla.
During his 12 days with the Israeli authorities, Mr Woodhead received public messages of support from film director Ken Loach and Bristol based TUC General Secretary candidate Jerry Hicks.
Amir Ofek, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in London, said he was unable to comment on the details. However, he expressed concerns about Mr Woodhead's background as an activist in England and questioned ISM's commitment to nonviolent action.
A spokeswoman at the British Foreign Office said: "We were made aware on March 1 of the detention of a British national, Thomas Woodhead in Israel. We are providing consular assistance."
She added that an official had spoken to Mr Woodhead about allegations of mistreatment.
She said: "The Foreign and Commonwealth Office takes all allegations of mistreatment extremely seriously, and with permission of the person concerned will raise these with the relevant local authorities."