Israel has been holding a Turkish woman in detention for almost a month, and is reportedly set to charge her Sunday with aiding the Hamas terror organization, media reports said.
Ebru Özkan, 27, was arrested at Ben Gurion airport on June 11 and her remand has been repeatedly extended in court. The arrest received extensive media attention in Turkey and members have urged Israel to release her, claiming the charges against her are groundless.
Özkan was taken in for questioning as she was ending a three-day trip to Israel, after she had checked in to her flight and passed border control, her family and friends said, according to Turkish media. That questioning turned into an hours-long interrogation and a weeks-long detention, with Özkan not allowed to have contact with the outside world for two weeks, as is common in Israel for security-related detainees. She was then allowed to meet an attorney, as well as Turkish consulate officials.
On Sunday, the Haaretz daily quoted a Shin Bet official as saying she was “arrested on suspicion of posing a threat to national security and having ties to terror organizations, and was handed over to security forces.”
She is suspected of transferring money to a member of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group which controls the Gaza Strip, Özkan’s lawyer Omar Khamaysa told Haaretz.
Khamaysa claimed that a good friend from Istanbul had asked Özkan 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 report said interrogators from the Shin Bet security agency haven’t informed Özkan’s defense team of the exact nature of the suspicions and charges against her, and that information has been gathered only from what authorities have said in court and during questioning.
Khamaysa also said that interrogations were conducted in Arabic, a language Özkan 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.”
Relations between Jerusalem and Ankara imploded in 2010, following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.
In May, relations between Israel and Turkey sank to a fresh low point after expelling each other’s envoys amid an acerbic war of words following deadly clashes on the Gaza Strip border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to social media to accuse Israel of being “a terror state” that was committing “genocide” against Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back shortly after, claiming that as a prime supporter of Hamas, the Turkish leader was himself involved in “terrorism and slaughter.”
In response, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim urged Muslim countries to review their ties with Israel, while Erdogan called an “extraordinary summit” of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the issue.
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.