15 January 2024

Israeli football player charged with inciting hatred during match in Turkey

15 January 2024

Turkish authorities have charged Israeli football player Sagiv Jehezkel with inciting hatred after he expressed solidarity with people held hostage by the Hamas during a top-flight league game.

He was released from custody pending trial.

The Antalyaspor player had been detained for questioning late on Sunday after he displayed a bandage on his wrist, marked with the words “100 Days 7.10” – in reference to October 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 Jehezkel was under investigation for “openly inciting the public to hatred and hostility”.

Mr 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.

The player was expected to return to Israel later in the day on a private jet together with members of his family, NTV television reported.

During his questioning by police, the player denied accusations that he engaged in a provocative act, the 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 defence minister Yoav Gallant called Jehezkel’s detention “scandalous”.

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

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