Israel on Sunday charged a Turkish tourist in detention on Sunday with helping smuggle money and packages to Palestinian militant group Hamas, in a case that has angered Ankara, which has vowed to retaliate.
Özkan, 27, was arrested by Israeli security at Ben Gurion Airport on June 11, when she was attempting to board a return flight to Turkey, on suspicion of posing a threat to national security and ties to terrorist groups.
Her lawyer, Omar Khamaysa, said she was charged with trying to bring money and a cellphone charger to Hamas members but added that she hadn’t been aware of their identity. Israel labels Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organization.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu on Friday accused Israel of taking deterrent measures against Turkish citizens traveling to Jerusalem, referring to Özkan.
According to Reuters, Özkan was led, manacled, to the dock in an Israeli military court on the boundary with the occupied West Bank and was indicted of acting in the service of a proscribed group, transferring money for enemy agents and threatening the public order. One of the charges she faces is for smuggling five bottles of perfume, which, according to the prosecutors she intended to sell to raise funds for Hamas.
“Israel should end these wrongful policies and inhumane cruelty. Recently, we also observe their measures against our citizens. As a last example of it, they keep on extending the detention of our sister, Ebru Özkan,” Çavuşoğlu said on Friday during an interview. “Do not force us to take counter measures,” Çavuşoğlu added and vowed to retaliate, if Israel does not stop its inhumane policies.
Özkan is not the first Turkish citizen to have been detained in recent times by Israeli authorities. In January Osman Hazır, a 46-year-old Turkish national, was arrested for snapping a selfie at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque while holding a Turkish flag.
And last December, Israel arrested two other Turks — Abdullah Kızılırmak and Mehmet Gargılı — after the pair had quarreled with Israeli police who had tried to prevent them from entering the flashpoint holy site.
In the same month, Adem Koç, another Turkish national, was arrested inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for allegedly “disturbing the peace and taking part in an illegal demonstration.” Kızılırmak, Gargılı and Koç were all subsequently released on bail.
Turkey and Israel once had a bedrock security partnership. But the relationship has deteriorated over the last decade, with Ankara condemning three Israeli wars in Gaza. Ties were ruptured after Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid flotilla trying to reach Gaza in 2010, killing nine activists.
Muslims account for just a small percentage of incoming tourists to Israel. In 2016, most of them, around 100,000, came from Turkey. (SCF with turkishminute.com)