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Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 11:38 UK

Turkish charity worker arrested in West Bank

Izzet Sahin, picture courtesy of ihh.org.tr
Izzet Sahin, who was arrested on 27 April, has not been charged

Israeli forces have arrested a Turkish charity worker in the West Bank because they suspect he was helping banned groups.

The arrest was made on 27 April, and can only be reported after a court-imposed gagging order was lifted.

The man has been named as Izzet Sahin, 40, from the Turkish organisation the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief.

The group organise flotillas of boats aiming to break a blockade on Gaza.

It was not immediately clear what charges were being brought against him.

'Security risk'

A statement on behalf of the Shin Bet security services said the group which goes by the Turkish acronym IHH, was banned in Israel. The statement did not say why the organisation is banned.

"He was arrested on suspicion he had been working for a long time in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] for the Turkish organisation IHH, which in 2008 was declared illegal in Israel, also that in his activity he assisted other organisations in Judea and Samaria which were declared illegal," the statement said.

"He was arrested on suspicion that his activities in Judea and Samaria risked the security in the area."

The statement also said his arrest was not connected to an IHH's attempts to break the blockade of Gaza by sea, planned for later this month.

The IHH was not immediately available for comment.

But in a statement posted on their website, they said Mr Sahin had been living in the West Bank since 2009.

IHH described him as the organisation's West Bank representative and a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He was arrested as he travelled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

The Israeli security services said Mr Sahin will remain in custody until at least 13 May.

The Israeli foreign ministry said they had had no contact from the Turkish government over the arrest, other than the consular services offered by the Embassy.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated recently.

Ankara was highly critical of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza which started in December 2008.

In January this year the Israeli deputy foreign minister publicly reprimanded the Turkish ambassador for a television show aired in Turkey which depicted Israeli security services as baby-snatchers.

The row deepened in April when Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel was the "main threat to peace" in the Middle East while on a trip to France.



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