Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld, Rabbi Avraham Weiss of New York and another American were detained twice Wednesday by Turkish police in Istanbul and reportedly beaten following their second detention, after demonstrating against visiting Austrian President Kurt Waldheim.
According to Glenn Richter, national coordinator of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the three were first detained for six and a half hours Wednesday morning, after they unfurled signs in a schoolyard. They were trying to con front Turkish President Kenan Evren, who was dedicating the school and was to meet later with the Austrian president.
Weiss is national chairman of the Student Struggle and founder, with Richter and Klarsfeld, of a small group called the Coalition for Concern. The group has protested other appearances by Waldheim, including his audience in Rome with Pope John Paul II and his inauguration as Austrian president.
Waldheim has been accused by Jewish groups of involvement in Nazi atrocities during World War II, when he served as an intelligence officer in the German army. He has denied any knowledge of war crimes committed against Jews.
On Wednesday, Weiss and Klarsfeld were accompanied by another American protester, Solomon Eljashev, who traveled from the United States with Weiss. The three held up signs that read, “Don’t meet war criminal Waldheim,” “Don’t meet Nazi Waldheim” and “Don’t rehabilitate a Nazi war criminal.”
After their release, the three proceeded to protest again at Turkish army headquarters, where Evren was to hold a 20-minute meeting with Waldheim. Police detained them again, took them to Taksim Square, the main square in Istanbul and released them.
NOT VIEWED AS STATE VISIT
“They went for our signs, picked us up, pushing and shoving, ripping up our signs with a great deal of force and beat us up again,” Weiss was quoted as saying in Istanbul. “They banged us on the head and twisted Beate’s leg and slapped Eljashev across the face with tremendous force,” he charged.
Turkish sources in New York and Washington disputed accounts of the incident. They also emphasized that Austrian authorities had requested the stopover for Waldheim on his way back from Syria and Kuwait, and that Turkey was not regarding this as a state visit.
Waldheim was staying at a hotel and not at a guest house where official state visitors are always placed, a Turkish Embassy councilor told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Turkish officials also reported that Prime Minister Turgut Ozal canceled his meeting with Waldheim because of protests from the West.
Waldheim arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday, following state visits to Kuwait and Syria. He was received at the airport by Turkish Foreign Minister Mesut Yilmaz, rather than President Evren.
Last week, eight members of the U.S. Congress sent a telegram to Evren and Ozal, urging them not to meet with Waldheim. They said such a meeting could damage Turkish relations with the American government, which has barred Waldheim from entering the United States.
In New York, a staff member at the Turkish Mission to the United Nations claimed that because of the Western protests, Evren would not meet at all with Waldheim. That claim was disputed by a Turkish newspaper in New York, and could not be verified independently.
A press spokesperson at the Turkish Mission said beating demonstrators is against Turkish law.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.