An Israeli Arab wanted on drug charges in the United States has been jailed without trial in Turkey for more than a year because his extradition has been delayed by bureaucratic holdups, and his family accuses the Foreign Ministry of refusing to help because he is an Arab.
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The Foreign Ministry denies this, saying he receives consular assistance “like any other Israeli citizen.”
Nabhan Isa, a father of five from Kafr Qasem who has lived with his family in the United States for several years, was arrested in Turkey in March 2015 under an international arrest warrant obtained by the American authorities.
Isa agreed to be extradited to the United States since according to his lawyer, Amnon Mazar, he has evidence that would prove his innocence in court. The Turkish government also had no objection to the extradition, but due to a combination of Turkish and American bureaucracy, he is still in a Turkish jail 15 months later.
Two months ago, a Turkish court finally approved his extradition. But under Turkish law, the extradition order must be signed by the prime minister – and that hasn’t happened yet.
Isa’s family says the Foreign Ministry hasn’t tried to help him and hasn’t put pressure on the Turkish government to speed his extradition.
“It’s an embarrassment for Israel,” said his brother, Rauf Isa. “An Israeli citizen has been arrested for a year and three months and nobody asks, nobody lifts a finger, nobody has contacted us. If he were Jewish, they would have moved mountains. We're really seeing racism and discrimination.”
Rauf added that his brother was in very bad emotional shape.
Last week, Mazar appealed directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Unfortunately, despite the long time that has passed since the decision on his extradition, the Turkish prime minister’s signature on the order is being delayed for no evident reason, and since we’re talking about the highest political levels in Turkey, the family currently has no influence to hasten the signing,” he wrote.
Mazar charged that the Foreign Ministry sufficed with a single phone call to a Turkish official. “My client and his family believe that the absence of more substantial involvement by the Israeli government stems from the fact that he’s an Israeli Arab citizen, and without doubt, if he were a Jewish citizen, the handling [of his case] would have been completely different,” Mazar said.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it and its people in Turkey were familiar with Isa’s case. It said Israeli diplomats in Istanbul were in touch with him, had visited him several times and had given him consular services as required. It said the Foreign Ministry was in constant contact with Mazar as well.
According to the ministry, the state does not intervene in legal proceedings in cases of Israeli citizens arrested abroad, and this includes extradition requests by third countries. It said the state had no obligation to intervene in order to influence legal proceedings of this type, and generally does not do so.
“As part of the consular assistance, the Israeli embassy in Ankara continues to follow up on Mr. Nabhan’s situation and the progress of his legal proceedings with the Turkish authorities. It must be stressed that Mr. Nabhan’s attorneys in Turkey are the ones representing him in the legal proceedings there,” the ministry said.
“The Foreign Ministry utterly rejects the claim made in the letter by Mr. Nabhan’s attorney that the Foreign Ministry is discriminating against Mr. Nabhan because he is Arab. Mr. Nabhan has received consular assistance from the Foreign Ministry like any other Israeli citizen.”