Israel Held Turkish National for Three Weeks Over Suspected Ties to Iran

Orhan Buyruk was interrogated by Shin Bet and deported back to Turkey without charges. Turkish diplomats say detention was result of 'misunderstanding.'

Orhan Buyruk during a previous visit to Israel.
Orhan Buyruk during a previous visit to Israel. Buyruk's Facebook account

A Turkish national arrested at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport was released on Wednesday after three weeks in Israeli custody, during which he was interrogated by the Shin Bet security service. Media reports in Turkey said Orhan Buyruk was suspected of ties with Iranian intelligence.

A gag order that was imposed on the story was partially lifted on Wednesday morning after reports in the Turkish media about Buyruk's release.

"On September 29, 2016, Orhan Buyruk, a Turkish citizen born in 1984, was detained for investigation, on suspicion of committing security offenses," the Shin Bet said. "At the conclusion of the investigation it was decided to send him out of Israel and he was returned to Turkey." 

The reason for the detention was not clear, and the reason for his release even less so. The Shin Bet refused to say whether Buyruk was released because the suspicions against him were disproved.

Following Buyruk's detention, the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv turned to the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli security authorities and asked for clarifications. Turkish diplomats said that "Our cooperation with Israeli authorities was positive and productive, in conformity with the spirit of normalization." The Turkish diplomats noted that as far as they knew the detention was a result of a "misunderstanding."

Buyruk's attorney told the Turkish media that his client had arrived in Israel with a group of Muslim pilgrims in order to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Buyruk has visited Israel in the past for a similar purpose and encountered no problem with the authorities. His attorney said Buyruk was accused of being an Iranian agent or of providing information about Israel to an Iranian who is a Facebook friend.

The attorney noted that the claims against Buyruk were false and that the Israeli prosecutor had no proof of them. A member of his group of pilgrims told Turkish media Buyruk was detained for questioning at the airport and after 18 hours he was taken to an undisclosed location. The group, he added, was only notified of his arrest by Israeli security services after four days in Israel.

For the first 10 days in which he was in detention and under investigation, Buyruk was denied the right to meet with a lawyer. He met with an Israeli lawyer who was hired for him only when he was brought for a discussion about extending his detention. An additional hearing on his case was supposed to take place on Thursday, but on Tuesday night he was informed that it had been decided to release him and to expel him back to Turkey.

Last Friday there was already a protest demonstration against Buyruk's detention in front of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. At the demonstration Buyruk's family and friends called for his immediate release.