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Israelis turks complain of abuse at airports

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(source: Jordan Times – 6 September 2011)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli travellers accused Istanbul airport staff of humiliating them and Turkish tourists complained of similar abuse at Israel’s main airport, as ties between the two countries hit a new low on Monday. The Israeli foreign ministry said 40 Israelis were held for an hour and a half for questioning at Ataturk International Airport on Monday before they were released.Passengers quoted by Israel’s public radio said they were subjected to “humiliating body searches” at the Turkish airport.

They said Turkish airport security officers had told them several Turkish citizens were treated similarly while passing through Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday. The incidents came as tensions between the former allies reached new heights over a deadly May 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla of ships that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

A report from Istanbul quoted a group of Turkish tourists who said they had been separated from travellers of other nationalities and strip-searched by Israeli security officers, Anatolia news agency reported.

Following Monday’s incident, the Israeli foreign ministry said it had received an “unusual” complaint that Israeli passengers on the Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul had been singled out for questioning.

“It was a Turkish Airlines flight that landed in Istanbul, about 40 passengers were detained,” deputy foreign ministry spokesman Ilana Steintold AFP. “They were taken to separate rooms to be questioned. Their passports were taken. After about an hour and a half of waiting, they were questioned one by one and after that they got their passports back and then they were free to go.”

Stein said details of the incident had been confirmed by the ministry, and that it would be investigated further before a decision was taken onwhether to protest the treatment of the passengers.

Foreign travellers passing through Ben Gurion Airport face lengthy questioning and invasive searches by the Israeli security forces, prompting a steady stream of complaints.Speaking to Anatolia, the Turkish travellers said the lengthy security checks in Israel had delayed the flight.

“They immediately told the group from Bucharest to pass… but they tookus into changing rooms. [We] took off our clothes and shoes. [They] searched our bodies with their hands and then with a detector,” Arif Cinar told the agency.”They searched our bodies for explosives for several times,” he said, while another passenger said he was forced to strip.”I told them I am a Muslim and would not take off my trousers. They said I could not fly then… They forcibly made me [take off] my trousers,” Mustafa Teke said.

In response, a spokesman for Israel Airports Authority said: “Ben Gurionsecurity acts according to security needs and under the guidance of professional factors.”