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Friday, June 26, 2015

Seven Turks detained at Ben Gurion, deported to Turkey, barred for ten years

A reminder to all of you that I am currently in Boston where the Sabbath does not start for several more hours.

Nine Turkish citizens who arrived in Israel on Turkish Airlines on Thursday were interrogated for several hours at Ben Gurion Airport, and seven of them were sent back to Turkey and banned for ten years according to a report in Turkey's pro-government Today's Zaman (Hat Tip: Joshua I). According to the newspaper, the group was made up of 'journalists and activists' who were heading to Jerusalem for a 'charity event.'
Nine Turkish citizens, including pro-government Star daily columnist Halime Kökçe, Ülke TV Editor-in-Chief Hasan Öztürk, head of the Turkish charity Sadakataşı and several activists, were detained at the airport. Kökçe said seven people from the group were deported while a cameraman and a reporter from state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) were allowed to enter the country.
On her personal Twitter account, Kökçe posted, “We were interrogated for six hours. We were searched for two hours.”
After coming back to İstanbul on Friday, Sadakataşı President Kemal Özdal, who was among those detained in Israel, said the group was on its way to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for iftar (the evening meal to break the Ramadan fast) when they were stopped by the Israelis.
He said as soon as they arrived in Ben Gurion Airport by a Turkish Airlines flight, Israeli security officials accompanied the Turkish group and at passport control the group was detained by Israeli intelligence officials. Özdal said their passports and phones were taken and the group went through a long interrogation by the Israelis. According to Özdal, after the questioning they were deported and banned from entering Israel for the next 10 years. He also said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, interim Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Foreign Ministry officials tried to help the group.
Öztürk from Ülke TV also made a statement at Atatürk Airport in İstanbul, saying he was in Israel only two months ago and he doesn't understand why this time he was deported without a valid reason. “Israel acts arbitrarily and it is an anti-democratic state. Others criticize Turkey for press freedoms. Go and tell this to the Israelis,” he said.
Kökçe said she hoped to see Al-Aqsa Mosque, Ramallah and Gaza but instead she was met with “Israel's real face.”
Here's a hint that there might be more to it:
Civil Servants' Trade Union (Memur-Sen) Vice President Levent Uslu also said that the group had expected to be treated badly by Israel, but he didn't elaborate as to why. Uslu complained that they were asked odd questions such as the names of their grandfathers or which party they voted for in the last election.
Haaretz reports that they were banned because of Hamas ties.  The Hebrew version of the article, which can be accessed in full here, doesn't say any more except to add that the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was summoned on Friday morning to 'explain' why the group was barred from entering.

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