Turkey Deputy PM claims Israel falsely accused local Turkish aid official – Arab-Israeli Conflict


Muhammad Murtaja

Muhammad Murtaja.
(photo credit: SHIN BET,REUTERS)

On Thursday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu claimed Israel had falsely accused an official of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). According to The Daily Sabah he made the comments at a plenary session of parliament.

“A local TIKA official is under arrest on false accusations. The history will definitely remember who served human and who served hostility,” Cavusoglu reportedly said. TIKA is a government department of the Prime Minister’s office in charge of development assistance which describes itself as an “implementing intermediary of Turkish foreign policy.”

In March The Jerusalem Post reported that Gaza resident Muhammed Murtaja had been arrested by the Shin Bet and accused of “financing Hamas’s military wing.” Murtaja was an employee of TIKA and was traveling via Erez crossing from Gaza to receive vocational training. At the time a Turkish Foreign Minister spokesman said “according to basic legal principles until he has been subject to due process he is assumed to be innocent.”

Murtaja was detained while on a trip to Israel from Gaza and he was working as the Gaza coordinator of TIKA. Murtaja had also previously worked with the Turkish organization IHH which helped lead the Mavi Marmara flotilla. According to the March report about his arrest in February, he was also involved in Hamas terrorist training, exercises, manufacturing weapons and explosive devices and digging attack tunnels. He was accused by the Shin Bet of storing weapons as well.

Cavusoglu’s comments come amidst heightened tensions between Turkey and Israel over Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At a summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation on Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Israel as a “terror state.” Cavusoglu has posted numerous times on Twitter in support of east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

TIKA has also tweeted comments by the deputy Prime Minister in which he said “we as a nation are for Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque has been serving as a cradle of honor for generations.”

TIKA says it has carried out 71 projects in east Jerusalem and the West Bank since 2005. According to The Daily Sabah this also includes restoration at the Dome of the Rock, and a dormitory for female students of Al-Quds University. TIKA has an office in Ramallah. Cavusoglu said on Thursday that TIKA had sought to open an office in Tel Aviv but it was not complete. At the time of writing the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister’s Office and TIKA had not responded to inquiries from the Post.

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