Ex-MP's family seeks his release from custody in Israel

A former New Democrat MP is in Israeli custody after troops commandeered a ship attempting to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Jim Manly says he wanted to draw attention to hardships of Palestinians in Gaza

Former NDP MP Jim Manly makes a statement in a pre-recorded video released on YouTube on Saturday, after the Estelle was commandeered by Israeli troops. (Canadian Press)

The family of a former New Democrat MP who was arrested on board a ship trying to break through Israel's blockade of Gaza is asking the federal government to help secure his release.

Jim Manly, 79, who is an ordained United Church minister, was travelling with several European legislators and pro-Palestinian activists when he was taken into Israeli custody over the weekend.

The Finnish-flagged Estelle nears the waters off the Gaza Strip Saturday. Israeli naval vessels thwarted the advance of the pro-Palestinian boat and arrested those on board, including a Canadian. (Israel Defence Forces/Associated Press)

He was aboard the Finnish-flagged MV Estelle to draw attention to what he called the "struggles of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip."

His family says they want Ottawa to do more to help have Manly released.

His son, Paul Manly, says his father should be permitted to call his family and should not be forced to sign any type of confession.

Manly was elected to represent the B.C. riding of Cowichan-Malahat-The Islands in the 1980 and 1984 federal elections.

Ship was carrying supplies

The Estelle was reportedly carrying aide supplies when it was intercepted and diverted to an Israeli port.

"My father must be released from detention immediately and put on the first plane available back to Canada," he said.

An official for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday the government recognizes Israel's "legitimate security concerns" over flotillas into Gaza.

"We have strongly urged those wishing to deliver humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip to do so through established channels. Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza," Baird's spokesman, Rick Roth, said in an email.

The ministry says it is monitoring the situation closely and has been in contact with Manly's family.

Israel's Interior Ministry says the activists will be questioned and deported to their home countries within 72 hours.

Israel imposed an embargo on Gaza after the Islamic militant organization seized control of the territory in 2007.

Israel says it needs the blockade to prevent smuggling of weapons.

But critics say the embargo amounts to the collective punishment of Gaza's residents.