ULKE TV Editor in Chief Hasan Ozturk, among the Turkish journalists recently deported from Israel, said that Israeli police questioned the Turkish citizens and asked questions over Turkey’s state aid institution, the Turkish Cooparation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).
Israel on Thursday deported seven out of nine Turkish citizens including four journalists and five activists after they were interrogated for six hours at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
Speaking to TRTWorld.com on Friday, Ozturk gave details about the process where Israeli police detained two of the nine Turkish citizens after they left the airport in Tel Aviv.
“I and Halime [Gokce] went through inspection without any problem. We almost left the airport and we realised that the other seven of our group were absent. Then Israeli police came and took us for interrogation for no reason. We kept calm despite their provocative questions especially about our government,” said Ozturk, discussing the case.
Ozturk, Halime Kokce from Star newspaper, Ozden Ayvaz and Huseyin Gunay from TRT News were the journalists in the group. Ayvaz and Gunay were allowed to enter Israel after the interrogation. Memur-sen vice chairman Levent Uslu and members of the Sadakatasi Relief Foundation Kemal Ozdal, Durdane Ozdal, Fatih Bolcan and Sumeyra Bolcan were the activists in the group who were attempting to take part in an iftar (breaking fast) dinner in Jerusalem.
Asked about reports that the Israeli police confiscated the mobile phones of Turkish citizens before interrogation, Ozturk said that the reason for the confiscation of the phones was to support the interrogation with data from the phones.
“The worst question Israeli police asked me was about TIKA. They saw the number of a friend from TIKA. They asked me if TIKA is a foundation established against Israel’s occupation? I’ll never forget this question,” he said.
TIKA is an aid agency established by the Turkish government aimed at realising many projects and activities in the fields of education, health, restoration, agricultural development, finance, tourism and industry, in many countries, including Palestine.
Israeli police gave the phones back to the Turks before they were deported, however, the phones are not functioning properly after Israelis removed the data from the phones.
“They asked me ‘who do you know from Israel?’ I answered ‘I know Netanyahu.’ They didn’t like the answer. Then asked the same question for Palestine, Hamas and Iran ... They were deeply interested with my friends from TIKA. You know TIKA constructed many things to help Palestinians,” Ozturk stated.
Regarding for the reason for his deportation, Ozturk said “I’ve visited Israel many times before. I have never experienced such a proceeding. And Halime took a visa from Israeli consulate in Istanbul. So first they accepted us and then deported us.”
"Israel has forbidden seven of the Turks to enter the country for 10 years." Ozturk added.
The Turkish Prime Ministry condemned the event in a written statement, saying Israel’s action is a violation of press freedom, while the Turkish Foreign Ministry called Israel’s chief diplomat for an explanation.