Turkish woman charged by Israel with smuggling perfume, money for Hamas
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Turkish woman charged by Israel with smuggling perfume, money for Hamas

'Come on, really?' her exasperated lawyer says, as Ebru Ozkan indicted for aiding Hamas on trips to Israel, including money laundering scheme involving expensive fragrances

Ebru Özkan, a Turkish woman arrested in Israel on suspicion of aiding Hamas. (Courtesy)
Ebru Özkan, a Turkish woman arrested in Israel on suspicion of aiding Hamas. (Courtesy)

An Israeli military court on Sunday charged a Turkish woman accused of passing hundreds of dollars to the Hamas terrorist organization, security sources said.

Ebru Ozkan, 27, was detained at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport on June 11 as she was leaving the country to return to her homeland.

The indictment read out Sunday accused Ozkan of smuggling objects, including perfume and a phone charger, as well as $500 into Israel and then the West Bank in the service of Hamas members. She was charged on four separate counts.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Ozkan was arrested last month “on suspicion of posing a threat to national security and for having links to a terrorist organisation.”

In the indictment, Ozkan was accused of smuggling five bottles of expensive perfume with the intention of selling them and transferring the proceeds to Hamas as part of a money laundering scheme.

Her lawyer Omar Khamaisi reacted with incredulity to the charge.

“Come on, really?” he told the Reuters news agency. “I think that in this the case the decision will ultimately be a brave one – to release her, I hope.”

She was also charged with bringing a cell phone charger into the country for Hamas and giving a Hamas member $500.

According to the indictment, Ozkan never met up with the Hamas member to give him the phone charger.

On the money transfer charge, Khamaisi said that Ozkan was simply shuttling the $500 from a friend to a Palestinian relative and couldn’t have known that the relative was a Hamas operative, according to Haaretz.

However, the indictment noted that Ozkan had been paid $100 for her service and that the friend had paid for her flight.

Khamaisi also said that interrogations were conducted in Arabic, a language Ozkan doesn’t speak well, and that she has said the Hebrew translation read out in court “distorted” her words.

The Shin Bet frequently justify withholding information on charges from defense teams of security suspects, saying that releasing it would endanger sources and put national security at risk.

Özkan hasn’t been permitted to speak with her family members, who have held several media conferences in Turkey to decry her fate.

“It is a completely arbitrary arrest,” her sister, Elif, told the Anadolu news agency last month. “They accuse her of [having links] to a terror organization but they are not saying which terrorist organization. They are all groundless claims.”

Khamaisi claimed that a good friend from Istanbul had asked Ozkan to deliver $500 to his Palestinian relative, adding that she couldn’t have known that the relative was a Hamas operative, according to the report. In a previous visit, the friend had requested that Özkan transfer a cellphone charger to a different person who was also a Hamas member, but he never showed up to receive it, the lawyer said.

The case against Ozkan comes as tensions have spiked between Turkey and Israel after Ankara ordered out the Jewish state’s ambassador in May over the killing of protesters along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday said his officials were in contact with the Israelis over Ozkan’s case and called for an end to its “pitiless persecutions.”

“We will retaliate against this. Our relations will normalize when Israel stops its inhumane policies,” he said Friday.

On Saturday, Hadashot TV reported that Israel was considering restricting the activities of Turkey’s international aid agency in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories in an effort to counter reported efforts by Erdogan to extend his influence in East Jerusalem.

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