Israeli court releases three Turks after Jerusalem ‘incident’
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Israeli court releases three Turks after Jerusalem ‘incident’

Police spokesman provides few details of what led to arrests, but footage shows men wearing red shirts with Turkish flag scuffling with officers in Old City

Turkish tourists, who were arrested earlier in the week at a holy site in Jerusalem following Muslim prayers, are seen at an Israeli court in Jerusalem, on December 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
Turkish tourists, who were arrested earlier in the week at a holy site in Jerusalem following Muslim prayers, are seen at an Israeli court in Jerusalem, on December 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)

A court ordered the release from custody Saturday of three Turkish tourists a day after they were arrested over a confrontation with police at a Jerusalem holy site.

Police said the three were detained on Friday for being “involved in an incident in Jerusalem’s Old City after Friday prayers on the Temple Mount.” They had been praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the holy site that also houses the Dome of the Rock.

They were arrested for attacking a police officer and resisting arrest.

But Jerusalem magistrates’ court ordered their release in a hearing late Saturday, denying a police request to extend their detention by four days.

“The court rejected the police’s argument which is basically that they were liable to interfere with the police investigation, and also that they pose a threat to the general community,” their lawyer Nick Kaufman told AFP after the hearing.

“It was obvious that this case was a politically charged case, and the judge released them.”

A video circulating on social media shows a number of men wearing red shirts with the Turkish flag scuffling with police in the Old City.

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu said two of the three hold dual Turkish and Belgian citizenship.

 

Welcomed by Israel, US President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy to the holy city has galvanized the Arab and Muslim world. Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip have called for numerous “Days of Rage” since Trump’s address, and Hamas has called for a new intifada.

In making the announcement, the US president said the move was merely a recognition of reality and did not prejudge final status issues.

While the White House speech was followed by violent Palestinian protests in the West Bank and Gaza, the protests subsided considerably after the first week, and Israeli officials believe there is little likelihood of a full-fledged wave of violence developing.

Eleven Palestinians have since been killed in clashes between protesters and Israeli forces in the West Bank, and Gaza. Two of the Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Hamas bases. On Friday, low-level scuffles between Palestinians and Border Police officers were reported in the Old City of Jerusalem as well.

At the forefront of international condemnation of Trump’s announcement has been Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vowed on December 10 to “not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”

On Saturday, several hundred Turks took part in protest in Istanbul, calling on Israel to release two Palestinian minors currently being held by Israel for assaulting soldiers during protests.

Demonstrators in Taksim Square, downtown Istanbul, march on December 23, 2017 with signs in English and Hebrew calling for the release of Palestinian minors Ahed Tamimi and Jawzi al Junidi, held in Israeli prisons. (Nazli Altinok/Times of Israel)

Turkey was one of the first countries to praise a Thursday UN General Assembly resolution decision condemning Trump’s Jerusalem recognition, saying it represented a resounding repudiation of Washington.

The measure passed by a wide margin of 128-9 with 35 abstentions and 21 no-shows, with most countries paying little heed to the Trump administration’s threats to cut aid to countries that voted for the measure.

Israel dismissed the vote as “preposterous.”

After the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Trump to reverse his decision, after criticizing the US leader for making threats over the resolution.

“We welcome with great pleasure the UN General Assembly’s overwhelming support… We expect the Trump administration to rescind without further delay its unfortunate decision, whose illegality has been clearly established,” Erdogan said on Twitter.

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