WORLD

Turkey charges Israeli soccer player with inciting hatred for showing solidarity with Gaza hostages

Jan 14, 2024, 11:27 PM

Antalyaspor's Sagiv Jehezkel points a message in his bandage that reads: "100 days. 7.10" as he cel...

Antalyaspor's Sagiv Jehezkel points a message in his bandage that reads: "100 days. 7.10" as he celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Turkish Super Lig soccer match between Antalyaspor and Trabzonspor in Antalya, southern Turkey, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. Turkish authorities have detained Turkish top-flight soccer club Antalyaspor's Israeli player Sagiv Jehezkel for questioning after he displayed solidarity with people held hostage by the Hamas militant organization during a league game. (Adem Akalan/DHA via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Adem Akalan/DHA via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities on Monday charged Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel with inciting hatred after he expressed solidarity with people held hostage by the Hamas militant organization during a top-flight league game.

The Antalyaspor player, who was released from custody pending trial, was due to return to Israel later on Monday aboard a private jet, said Alkan Evren, the team’s spokesman.

Jehezkel had been detained for questioning late Sunday after he displayed a bandage on his wrist with the words “100 Days 7.10” — in reference to Oct. 7, the day Hamas attacked Israel and the hostages were abducted — next to a Star of David.

The 28-year-old Israeli international told police he was simply calling for an end to the war.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said late Sunday that Jehezkel was under investigation for “openly inciting the public to hatred and hostility.” Tunc maintained in a statement posted on X that Jehezkel had engaged in “an ugly gesture in support of the Israeli massacre in Gaza.”

The gesture was deemed to be provocative in Turkey where there is widespread public opposition to Israel’s military actions in Gaza and overwhelming support for the Palestinians.

Antalyaspor suspended Jehezkel from the team and announced that it was speaking to the club’s lawyers about the possibility of terminating his contract.

During his questioning by police, the player denied accusations that he engaged in a provocative act, the private DHA news agency reported.

“I am not pro-war,” DHA quoted him as telling police. “I want this 100-day process to come to an end. I want the war to end.”

Jehezkel continued: “I have never engaged in anything related to politics since my arrival. I have never disrespected anyone since the day I arrived. The point I wanted to draw attention to was (the need) for an end of the war.”

The Turkish Football Federation condemned what it said was a gesture that “disturbed the conscience” of the Turkish public.

Jehezkel’s detention, meanwhile, sparked outrage in Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on the international community and sports groups to take steps against Turkey and its “political use of violence and threats against athletes.”

“Whoever arrests a football player for a show of solidarity with 136 captives who are more than 100 days with the terrorists of a murderous terrorist organization, represents a culture of murder and hate,” he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called Jehezkel’s detention “scandalous.”

“In its actions, Turkey serves as Hamas’ executive arm,” he wrote on X.

In a related incident, Istanbul top league side Basaksehir announced Monday that it has launched a disciplinary inquiry into its Israeli player, Eden Karzev, after he posted a message on social media marking the hostages’ 100 days in captivity with the hashtag “BringThemHomeNow.”

___

Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

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Turkey charges Israeli soccer player with inciting hatred for showing solidarity with Gaza hostages