Middle East

Israel court releases Turks after Jerusalem confrontation with police

Turkish tourists, who were arrested at holy site in Jerusalem after Muslim prayers, in Israeli court on Saturday (AFP)

An Israeli court ordered the release from custody on Saturday of three Turkish tourists a day after they were arrested over a confrontation with police at a Jerusalem holy site.

Police said the three were detained on Friday for being "involved in an incident in Jerusalem's Old City after Friday prayers on the Temple Mount", the Jewish term for the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. They were arrested for attacking a police officer and resisting arrest.

But Jerusalem magistrates' court ordered their release in a hearing late Saturday, denying a police request to extend their detention by four days, AFP reporters said.

US President Donald Trump's announcement earlier this month that Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and would move the American embassy there has galvanised the Arab and Muslim world.

Israel arrests 3 Turks after Jerusalem ‘incident’ — Haters of Israel United https://t.co/Ksb9gV1aZqpic.twitter.com/vk9CBGpSQh

— Therese (@Th2shay) December 23, 2017

"The court rejected the police's argument which is basically that they were liable to interfere with the police investigation, and also that they pose a threat to the general community," their lawyer Nick Kaufman told AFP after the hearing.

"It was obvious that this case was a politically charged case, and the judge released them."

The Turkish consulate in Jerusalem had no immediate comment, Reuters said.

A video circulating on social media shows a number of men wearing red shirts with the Turkish flag scuffling with police in the Old City.

Turkish-Belgian citizenship

Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu said two of the three hold dual Turkish and Belgian citizenship.

Eleven Palestinians have since been killed in clashes between protesters and Israeli forces in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At the forefront of international condemnation of Trump's announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on 10 December: "We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children."

Erdogan added later that Turkey intends to open an embassy in East Jerusalem. It was not clear how he would carry out the move, as Israel controls all of Jerusalem and calls the city its indivisible capital.

Palestinians want the capital of a future state they seek to be in East Jerusalem, which Israel took in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally.

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