An Israeli court has released three Turkish men a day after they were arrested at the entrance to al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem.
The men were taken into custody on Friday evening. Two of them, Abdullah Kizilirmak and Mehmet Kargili, who are also Belgian citizens, were accused of carrying out an assault on police officers just outside of the compound.
The third one, Adem Koc, was accused of “disturbing public order and attending an illegal demonstration”.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told news agencies that the three had planned on taking part in a demonstration. No casualties were reported.
A video from a bystander showed a group of Turkish people standing at one of the gates leading into the compound, which is Islam’s third holiest site. Some were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Turkey’s flag.
The Daily Sabah reported that Israeli soldiers at the gate refused to let the group in unless those wearing the T-shirts took them off, leading to a brawl.
Umeyr Ahmed Merrid, one of the lawyers representing the three Turks, told the Anadolu Agency that his clients did not accept any of the charges against them, noting that they were badly treated by Israeli police.
Merrid added that his clients, who were brought to Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court on Saturday, were released on bail on the condition that they do not enter the Old City until the beginning of 2018.
Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories have witnessed a surge of protests in the last two weeks, in response to the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So far, 15 Palestinians have been killed and more than 500 arrested by Israeli security forces.
The status of Jerusalem has long remained a sensitive topic and is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After occupying the city’s eastern part in the 1967 War, Israel annexed the territory. In 1980, it proclaimed Jerusalem as its “eternal, undivided capital.”
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, however, sees East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
On the international level, Turkey led the push for the United Nations General Assembly to hold an emergency session on the US decision. The session, held on Thursday, resulted in an overwhelming vote to declare US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”.