Israel's disproportionate policy of detaining anyone with a Muslim background or people they suspect of having ties to Palestinian or Muslim associations in general raise human rights concerns. In particular, Israeli officials target those seeking to visit Jerusalem where sites sacred to the Muslim faithful are located.
Ebru Özkan, a Turkish tourist, was the latest victim of arbitrary detentions when she was picked from among 38 Turkish nationals visiting Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, in Jerusalem. With her tourist visa, Özkan was able to freely visit the mosque and other sites before being detained by Israeli authorities for charges stemming back to 2016. The 27-year-old woman was detained on June 11 at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport moments before she was to board a flight to Turkey. Since then, she has remained in detention and was scheduled to appear in court when Daily Sabah went to print yesterday.
She is not the first Turkish national to be detained by Israel, which briefly detained at least four others on different dates since last year. Although Israel detains people from other nationalities as well, Turkish citizens make the headlines in Israeli and international media as Ankara is the most outspoken critic of Tel Aviv for its policies against Palestinians.
In Özkan's case, vague links to Hamas or other groups branded terrorists are sufficient to justify detentions. Her lawyer told Israel's Haaretz newspaper that the Turkish woman was accused of transferring money and other valuables to Hamas. The valuables in question are five bottles of perfume she brought to Israel to hand someone in 2016 and a cellphone charger she allegedly brought for someone in the West Bank. The lawyer said the indictment was "political" and something to "deter Turkish citizens who identify with Al-Aqsa [mosque]," adding that Özkan was not aware if people she contacted were from Hamas. The lawyer also highlighted that the Turkish woman was questioned in Arabic although she did not speak it well and was forced to sign a document she could not read. She was also probably the first Turkish national to be paraded before cameras while handcuffed and shackled before she was brought to a military court to set the hearing date.