Head of Turkish culture center briefly detained in Israel

Head of Turkish culture center briefly detained in Israel

İbrahİm Furkan Özdemir was the latest Turkish national to be detained in Israel, which was criticized by Turkish nongovernmental organizations for arbitrary detentions of Turkish nationals amid an ongoing crisis over the status of Jerusalem.

Özdemir, who is the director of the Turkish Culture Center in Jerusalem, which is operated by Turkey's state-run Yunus Emre Institute, was held in detention for about one hour, according to Anadolu Agency (AA). AA reported that "some 20 police officers" stormed Özdemir's house and searched the roof of his residence in the Old City part of Jerusalem late Tuesday. He was brought to David Police Center for questioning before he was released.

Ankara escalated rhetoric against Israel and the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that it would recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel last year. The decision sparked outrage in the world and led to mass protests in the Palestinian territories. Israeli security forces have detained several people, including minors, for joining the protests. Several Turkish citizens who visited Al-Aqsa Mosque in solidarity with Palestinians were also briefly held by Israeli forces. Cemil Tekeli, an academic from Medeniyet University in Istanbul, was arrested by Israeli police on Jan.15 at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a flight to Istanbul. His family and a group of protesters staged a rally outside the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul last week, blaming Israel for arbitrarily detaining Tekeli on trumped-up charges of preparing to carry out a terrorist attack. Tekeli still remains in detention after a court ordered an extension of his custody until Feb. 4.

Although Israeli-Turkish relations improved in recent years after a period of tensions over the blockade on Gaza and treatment of Palestinians, Turkish citizens visiting Israel are still subject to random questioning by Israeli authorities. Ahmet Zeki Olaş, who was traveling with Tekeli and deported to Turkey after he was held at the airport, told AA that Turkey's sensitivity for the Palestinian cause is the source of "Israel's wrath." "Turkish visitors are subject to thorough searches at the airport. Israeli officials ask people disturbing questions. Though you are not tortured, you are under psychological pressure while they question you," Olaş said, blaming Israel for doing to Turkish travelers what Turkish authorities do not do to Israeli citizens visiting Turkey. "In my case, they sought to gather intelligence, they asked about people I knew. It is possible that they would treat them as terrorism suspects," he says.

The Israeli embassy in Ankara has not responded to Daily Sabah's questions over the detention of Özdemir at the time Daily Sabah went to print.

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