US to extradite Israeli to Turkey

Lior Atuar loses appeal that claims torture was used to obtain evidence.

motty tzivin 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
motty tzivin 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Israeli convict is set to be extradited from the US to Turkey on drug charges after losing an appeal last week that claimed torture had been used to obtain evidence against him, according to his lawyers. Attorney Motty Tzivin said diplomatic channels were the only means available to prevent Lior Atuar's deportation to a country where prison conditions "are terrible and there is torture." He promised to start a campaign among US congressmen and American Jewish groups to convince the State Department to stay the extradition. Tzivin, who is based in Israel, criticized the Foreign Ministry for not taking any action to help Atuar. A ministry spokeswoman said that the government was aware of the case and that it was being examined by both her office and the Justice Ministry. "We are checking it, and we don't have any answer yet," she said. Tzivin said he had been soliciting help from the Foreign Ministry for the past two years, shortly after Turkey made its extradition request. At that time, Atuar was set to be released from a US prison, where he had served six-plus years for conspiracy to traffic in Ecstasy. Turkey made its request based on an incident in 1991, when Atuar had been arrested in a Turkish airport after an associate, Fahri Yasin, told police that Atuar was the owner of heroin found in Yasin's possession. Atuar escaped that same night, and has been wanted by Turkey ever since. Since Yasin fingered Atuar after being tortured by Turkish authorities, Atuar's lawyers argued that the testimony should be disqualified. They also submitted an affidavit from Yasin stating that he had falsely pointed to Atuar because of the torture used against him. Under the UN Convention Against Torture, signatories agree that "any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings." But the court found that, while Yasin's identification of Atuar was made under torture, he later identified him when not under physical duress. Furthermore, it determined that the CAT provisions don't apply because the US hadn't activated them in this case. Atuar's brother-in-law, who lives in Israel and asked not to be named, expressed distress at the decision. "I'm very disappointed," he said. "The only hope I have right now is that the US State Department will do something [and] see that this [is] an humanitarian issue." He also attacked Israel for neglecting Atuar's case. "Why isn't Israel helping?" he asked. "I feel that the State of Israel, and the Foreign Ministry especially, judged him before he had a trial." Tzivin said he understood that Israel's policy was not to interfere in the judicial proceedings of other countries. He argued, however, that the Foreign Ministry could have taken soft steps, like writing a letter on Atuar's behalf outlining Israel's concerns about how Turkey treats its prisoners, given that the country seeking his extradition has a history of using torture. "The human rights situation in Turkey speaks for itself, and this is the main reason why they are not admitted into the European Union," Tzivin charged. "[Atuar] will suffer because he's Jewish and Israeli, and because the government in Turkey is more and more Islamic, and he will be treated with a sense of revenge because he ran away."