Israel Secretly Releases Turkish Citizen Arrested on Terrorism Charges

Lawyers for Ebru Özkan, who was jailed for a month, tell Haaretz that military prosecution sent her home and suspended proceedings against her by classifying her as someone who 'could not be located'

Ebru Özkan escorted by prison service guards at a military court last week.
NIR ELIAS/Reuters

A Turkish citizen who was jailed in early June in Israel and was facing terrorism charges was released in recent days and has been sent home, Haaretz has learned. Her lawyers say that they have reached a deal with the prosecution that proceedings against her would be suspended on the grounds that she could "not be located."

Ebru Özkan, 27, was arrested at Ben-Gurion International airport last month on suspicions of being a danger to state security and conspiring with terror organizations. She was indicted by the military prosecution last week with attempting to transfer money and other objects to Hamas representatives.

Özkan's lawyers say that Israel had offered to release her after the charges were filed in exchange for a confession, an offer she refused. Ultimately, they say, the state and lawyers agreed on her release and return to Turkey, while proceedings in Israel would be suspended.

Her lawyer, Ramzi Katilat, confirmed to Ha turkish aretz that Özkan arrived in Turkey. He said that Özkan refused to confess and that her intention to see the evidence against her "apparently created pressure among the decision-makers" in Israel.

He said that the solution they reached was in effect to void the order preventing her from leaving Israel: she got her passport back, and left legally. "She naturally wouldn't stay a minute longer (in Israel)," he said, adding that the military prosecution had made the arrangement conditional on classifying it under "inability to locate" her and the case would effectively be over.

The Shin Bet security service confirmed she was "released with restrictive terms and then it was decided to order her to leave Israel immediately."

Ibrahim Kalin, an associate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tweeted that the president welcomed her back. Turkish media quoted Özkan thanking Erdogan for caring.

Özkan was arrested on June 11, on her way back home. Since then she has not been allowed to talk to her family. She could not meet a lawyer for the first two weeks and classified information about her was not given to the defense.

The first charge says that on a different trip to Israel, in 2016, on her way to Israel, Özkan received five bottles of perfume at the Istanbul airport. She was asked to take them to Israel. She is charged with bringing them in and giving them to an unidentified contact person, even though she was told it would be used for Hamas money laundering.

Another charge is that she received a charger for a mobile phone from one of her colleagues at her job at a research institute in which Hamas members are also reportedly employed. She was asked to take the charger to someone in the West Bank, and tell him this was “chocolate from a friend whom you gave money to.” She is charged with taking it to Israel, although she never met this person or gave him the charger.

The third charge is that in 2017 she received $500 from the same colleague before coming to Israel. She also received $100 for herself and $1,000 for covering her expenses in Israel. She is accused of realizing that her colleague was connected to Hamas. He is said to have told her the money was from a foreign source. She is accused of taking the money to Israel through her sister and another friend.