Erdoğan goes after human rights defenders in Turkey

The primary reason why Turkey’s autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his associates target human rights defenders by bringing absurd terrorism and espionage charges is to undermine their credibility, discredit their invaluable work in exposing massive human rights violations and intimidate them into silence.

The alarming reports issued by Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) as well as other advocacy and monitoring groups on the terrible record of violations in Turkey under Erdoğan’s leadership have put the country’s rulers on the defensive and raised serious questions over the government’s official narrative.

It was no coincidence that the Turkish government moved in to detain and later officially arrest Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty’s Turkey branch, around the time Amnesty submitted a highly critical statement to the UN asking the UN Human Rights Council to exert pressure on Turkey to take steps to address rights violations that have gone from bad to worse. Amnesty highlighted arbitrary detentions and torture, mass dismissals without due process and a massive crackdown on media freedom. On June 8, 2017, the UN secretary-general circulated this letter as an official document to the UN Human Rights Council.

Erdoğan government did not stop there. On July 5, 2017, police raided a workshop on Istanbul’s Büyükada, detaining leading human rights defenders who included İdil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey; İlknur Üstün of the Women’s Coalition; Günal Kurşun of the Human Rights Agenda Association; Nalan Erkem of the Citizens Assembly; Nejat Taştan of the Equal Rights Watch Association; Özlem Dalkıran of the Citizens Assembly; lawyer Şeyhmuz Özbekli; and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association. Two foreign nationals, Ali Gharavi of Sweden, who specializes IT strategy, and Peter Steudtner of Germany, who is a non-violence and wellbeing trainer, were also detained.

When the fabricated charges that were brought against these human rights defenders and trainers did not make any sense, Erdoğan’s propaganda machine kicked in with a smear campaign accusing these prominent figures of involvement in a plot to take down the Turkish government at the behest of the West. The campaign of demonization followed the same pattern we have started to see in the last couple of years of the Erdoğan regime, which adopted a vicious no-holds-barred approach to defame and dehumanize critics, opponents and dissidents. No doubt the members of the Gülen movement bear the brunt of this witch-hunt by Erdoğan, but others in the Kurdish political movement, Alevis and the secularist opposition received their share of a beating from the Islamist rulers in Turkey.

Under this climate of fear and relentless persecution of critics with the blatant abuse of the criminal justice system, many human rights defenders remain fearful of the next wave of arrests. Erdoğan, who tightly controls the judiciary, swings the politically motivated prosecutions as the sword of Damocles over the heads of human rights defenders.

Therefore, many are distracted by this very serious threat of imprisonment and find themselves in a difficult position to focus on what they have been doing in monitoring and documenting rights violations from the ground in Turkey. In other words, Erdoğan keeps them busy by putting the leading human rights defenders in the line of fire and thwarts their work.

Another motivation for why Erdoğan took the huge risk of inviting the wrath of world community, especially on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, is that he is more worried about the prospect of the mobilization of opposition groups on the home front than risking becoming an international pariah. He has seen how the main opposition political party was able to seize the moment with its March of Justice and gather millions of disenfranchised people at a major rally in Istanbul.

By jailing prominent human rights defenders, Erdoğan is effectively telling Turks that he can come down hard on the opposition if he wants to, thereby reducing their motivation and hampering the ability of dissident groups to mobilize against his rule. In fact, delivering a speech on July 12, 2017 to investors in Ankara, Erdoğan threatened main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu by saying that “If you call on people to take to the streets, you will end up in the position of not being able to go out in the street in the end.”

One year on since the failed coup bid of July 15, 2016, which was orchestrated by Erdoğan himself according to in-depth research done by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), over 50,510 people have been jailed, with many awaiting trial, and more than 169,013 are facing legal action, mostly in the form of lengthy detentions. The situation is not getting any better and in fact Erdoğan is escalating the persecution. It is time to revisit how the human rights issue in Turkey should be taken up, and all the stakeholders who invested in or care about the future of Turkey must now come up with new ways of handling this major crisis on the periphery of Europe.

First and foremost, the international community, especially Turkey’s Western partners, should be able to leverage economic and trade relations to the improvement of its human rights record. It is the only way Erdoğan will respond to appeals and demands. To put it in more concrete terms, the EU’s freezing of accession talks would not nudge Erdoğan in the right direction, and perhaps he would be happy to see the negotiations break down altogether. But he will pay close attention to what that would mean to business and trade ties, especially when it comes to possible revisions to the customs union. If he thinks he would lose trade, investment and tourism big time, thereby threatening the economic underpinnings of his regime, he’ll fold and take a step back. In short, raising the profile of human rights matters while engaging with Turkey would reduce the risk of appeasement.

Moreover, human rights defenders, journalists and civil society groups need all the help they can get from abroad as their support in Turkey has dwindled and most philanthropists are afraid of making donations for fear of being dragged into court under abusive anti-terror laws. The Erdoğan government has seized 965 companies with a total value of over $11 billion on false charges in the last year alone and has seized the personal assets of businesspeople who were seen as supporting critical groups like the Gülen movement.

Highlighting the individual cases of jailed journalists, activists and human rights defenders and following up on their trials may contribute in exerting pressure on the Turkish government.
Considering the fact that many prominent figures who work in the field of journalism and human rights have dispersed outside Turkey following the crackdown, they may come in handy in setting up networks in diaspora with links to Turkey, but they need platforms, resources, expertise and political and financial backing. This valuable human resource may be tapped for sending a message to Turkish society in the local language while covering the rights violations in Turkey for the international community in non-Turkic languages so they can keep abreast of developments in Turkey.

Erdoğan’s destructive path for Turkey depends on a scorched-earth policy, intimidation and blackmail. He has to be confronted head-on. Policy actions by Turkey’s allies and partners have often been too little, too late. Unless urgent measures and necessary brakes are put in place and at the right time to roll back this major slide in Turkey, there is no way of escaping Erdoğan’s runaway train that will cause significant damage not only to Turkey but also to its neighborhood and beyond.

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Erdoğan’s long arm 2.0 out to recruit non-Turkish Muslim

The Erdoğan regime’s destabilizing long arm in cultivating recruitments among Turkish expatriates abroad to serve the interests of the current Turkish government’s Islamist policies has apparently been upgraded to a new 2.0 version with an aggressive campaign to enlist allies among non-Turkish Muslim communities, presenting a new and difficult challenge for host governments, especially in Europe and North America.

A European Parliament resolution that approved the critical 2016 Commission Report on Turkey on July 6, 2017, which called for the freezing of accession talks with Turkey, captured Erdoğan’s clandestine activities in member states. It underlined that “that the Turkish government must refrain from systematic efforts to mobilize the Turkish diaspora in member states for its own purposes; notes with concern the reports of alleged pressure on members of the Turkish diaspora living in member states; and condemns the Turkish authorities’ surveillance of citizens with dual nationality living abroad.”

But it fell short of taking a snapshot of the non-Turkish Muslim groups that Erdoğan has been targeting in Europe for some time now. This is the niche market Erdoğan and his Islamist thugs have been investing in to create proxy groups to use as leverage in the arm-twisting game plan they hope to play. The main clientele solicited for this is composed of Uyghurs from China and the Central Asian republics, Immigrants from African countries such as Egyptians, Libyans, Moroccans, Sudanese and Somalis, Arabs from the Gulf and the Middle East and European Muslims from the Balkans.

It is easy to map out the fabric of this pattern just by reviewing the meetings held abroad by Erdoğan and other Islamist rulers during their travels. More often than not Muslim figures were invited to meet with Turkish officials either as collective groups in town-hall-style meetings or for private audiences in hotels or Turkish embassy/consulate buildings. For example, during the US visit in September 2016 to attend the UN General Assembly, Erdoğan received many Muslim figures, mostly from non-Turkish Muslim Brotherhood networks, in a private meeting. When Ahmet Davutoğlu, then prime minister, visited the UK in January 2016, he met with Muslim figures as well.

The groundwork for such meetings was laid by various Turkish government agencies including the Foreign Ministry, Turkish Development and Cooperation Agency (TİKA) and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), but the lead was taken by the Diyanet, a religious directorate that was upgraded to 10th place on the state protocol list from 51st in 2012. The Diyanet, a mammoth organization with some 150,000 employees, was given additional funding from the central budget to supplement the billions of dollars it already controls in cash, assets and properties through foundations.

The Erdoğan government has not hesitated to mobilize its assets in the Muslim communities it has cultivated in European capitals whenever it came under pressure. For example, when Erdoğan clearly shifted Turkey’s foreign and defense policy to favor Qatar against other Gulf and Arab nations, he also mobilized his proxies to hold protests in European capitals. On July 8, 2017, some 200 people including Egyptians, Palestinians, Algerians, Moroccans and Tanzanians, led by a Turkish man linked to the Erdoğan government, protested in Geneva in favor of Qatar, chanting anti-Egypt and anti-Emirates slogans. On March 12, 2017, in order to send a message to the Dutch government over a row on a ban for a Turkish political campaign in the Netherlands, Erdoğan’s henchmen organized two rallies in Sarajevo, one in front of the Dutch Embassy building and the other at an Ottoman bazaar in the city center, which were attended by the Turkish ambassador as well as non-Turkish Muslim groups.

There are many examples to cite of similar mobilizations of Erdoğan’s proxy groups from European capitals including Vienna, Berlin, London, Brussels, Paris and Stockholm at one time or another. It is not just Turkish government agencies that were involved in this major scheme of recruitment and mobilization. Erdoğan, through his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) grassroots mechanisms, set up parallel networks under the cover of commercial enterprises, NGOs and foundations so that he can fund various Islamist groups.

The leaked emails of Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak revealed how Erdoğan’s operatives funded and organized anti-Egypt rallies in New York in November 2013. The operative, named Halil Danışmaz, who then led a front NGO called the Turkish Heritage Organization, reported to Albayrak and Erdoğan’s son Bilal that an Egyptian group was meeting every week under their care and that even the slogans on placards that were displayed in protests were prepared by Turkey.

Another Albayrak email uncovered how the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) and the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW) have worked together in Europe to promote goals established by the Erdoğan family. In an email dated Jan. 21, 2013 and sent to Albayrak, a man named İsmail Emanet, then head of the youth branches of the UNIW, sent a detailed report to Erdoğan’s son-in-law on activities in Europe. In the 19-page report, Emanet, who is now advisor to Energy Minister Albayrak, said the UETD must be overhauled to better realign with the Islamist government’s goals and suggested that the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), the wealthy organization that is run by imams who were sent by the Turkish government to Europe, work closely with the UETD. Speaking to an Albanian TV station in June 2017, Erdoğan publicly said his government had been helping out political parties in Europe that share his Islamist AKP’s ideology and remarked that nobody should be bothered by this.

The alignment of Turkish and non-Turkish Muslim groups for the interests of the Erdoğan regime abroad has parallels in Turkey as well. Many Islamist groups including radical organizations from various countries found a safe haven in Turkey where they were sheltered, funded and supported by the Erdoğan government. On that fertile ground, jihadist cells have been able to mushroom across many provinces in Turkey, presenting a serious security challenge for the future viability of the republic. Small wonder that foreign jihadists easily made trips to Turkey, immediately linked up with a network there and raised arms, funds and recruits to fight in Syria and Iraq or travel to Europe to stage deadly attacks.

There are many recent examples that suggest a pattern by which Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants had used Turkey both as a gateway to jihadist regions in Syria as well as a springboard for returning to Europe to conduct killing sprees. Hayat Boumeddiene, a French national of Algerian origin who was the female accomplice of Islamists behind deadly attacks in Paris in January 2015, came to Turkey on Jan. 2, 2015 and stayed in Istanbul for two days before moving to the border province Şanlıurfa, where she spent four days before finally crossing into Syria. Turkish intelligence had tracked her movements and listened to her conversations yet allowed her to work closely with ISIL cells in Turkey.

Ismail Omar Mostefai, (DOB Nov. 21, 1985), a Frenchman of Algerian descent who was involved in the Bataclan concert hall attack that killed 89 people (130 in total in coordinated attacks) on Nov. 13, 2015, travelled to Turkey at the end of 2013 and moved on to Syria afterwards. He was known to Turkish intelligence, which tracked his movements and shared details with French authorities in December 2014 and June 2015.

Brussels bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and his brother Khalid el-Bakraoui, who were involved in the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium’s history on March 22, 2016, which killed 32 civilians, also turned out to be in Turkey. Ibrahim El Bakraoui, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, flew to Turkey’s tourist resort city of Antalya on June 11, 2015 and moved to the border province Gaziantep on June 14. He was caught three days later as he was trying to cross into Syria and deported to the Netherlands on July 14, 2015. His brother Khalid el-Bakraoui entered Turkey on Nov. 4, 2014 through an Istanbul airport. He was let in without any trouble. He left Turkey 10 days later on his own. The entry ban for Khalid el-Bakraoui was imposed on Dec. 12, 2015, after Belgium issued an arrest warrant for him on the same day.

The accomplices of Anis Amri, a Tunisian national who drove into the Christmas market in Berlin on Dec. 19, 2016, killing 12 people, were detained in Turkey after the incident. German citizens of Lebanese origin identified as Muhammed Ali K., Yusuf D. and Bilal Yosef M. were arrested in March 2016 in an operation conducted by the police acting on an intelligence tip as the suspects were about to leave Turkey. A fourth man, a German national of Jordanian descent, was also detained in Turkey’s western city of İzmir.

Akbarzhon Jalilov, a Russian national who was born in Kyrgyzstan, killed 14 people in a blast on the St Petersburg metro on April 3, 2017. He came to Turkey in late 2015 and had spent a year before he got deported on migration violations in December 2016. Rakhmat Akilov, the Uzbek national who rammed a truck into a crowd in Stockholm and killed five people on April 7, 2017, had also spent some time in Turkey, tried to cross into Syria and was shipped back to Sweden. Salman Abedi, a British national of Libyan descent, killed 22 people at a pop concert in the northern English city of Manchester when he blew himself up on May 22, 2017. Before the attack, he was in Libya and returned to the UK via Turkey and Germany. He was believed to have been supported by accomplices in Turkey. Youssef Zaghba, one of the three London bridge attackers on June 3, 2017 that killed eight, was detained in Italy in 2016 when he attempted to travel to Syria via Turkey. Zaghba had dual Moroccan and Italian citizenship.

It appears that Turkey has become a magnet for radical nut heads and religious zealots under the Islamist regime of President Erdoğan, whose disdain for Turkey’s allies and partners is no secret. It is absolutely clear that Erdoğan and his thugs are bent on radicalizing the Turkish population, be it in Turkey or abroad, and they seem quite determined to enlist non-Turkish Muslims for what they see as the holy battle against “infidels.”

This is one of the reasons why European governments are reluctant to allow Turkish officials including President Erdoğan to hold rallies and deliver venomous speeches to expatriates and other Muslim groups in European cities.

European intelligence services are already on alert tracking the espionage, recruitment and profiling activities of the Turkish government and dismantling the operational capabilities of Erdoğan’s long arm.

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Erdoğan’s terrorists in Turkey

The Turkish government under autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s perpetual emergency rule last week expanded its definition of terrorism by calling the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) “accomplices of terror” and “pawns of foreign powers.”

Considering that the CHP received 12.2 million votes (25 percent of the electorate) in the highly unfair election of Nov. 1, 2015, millions of people are considered by Turkey’s Islamist dictator to be “terrorists.”

Let’s recall that the co-chairpersons of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and some dozen lawmakers from the same party are jailed on terror charges as well. That adds another 5.2 million people to the Turkish government’s ‘terror.”

This is only on the political side of the spectrum. The Erdoğan government has already declared peaceful and law-abiding but critical group the Gülen movement members ‘terrorists” and has jailed over 50,000 people on trumped-up terror charges in the last 11 months alone.

Against this background, Erdoğan’s henchmen in the Turkish delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) proposed an urgent debate on terrorism at last week’s session. This hypocritical move, led by Talip Küçükcan, a theologian who is one of Erdoğan’s chief propagandists, was clandestinely designed to embarrass Europe for backing Erdoğan’s critics, who the Turkish government considers to be ‘terrorists,” and abuse the PACE plenary to advance Erdoğan’s hateful and xenophobic narrative.

It backfired and blew up in the faces of Küçükcan and other lackeys who wanted to please Erdoğan. During the debate on June 29, 2017, titled “Europe’s common fight against terrorism: successes and failures,” European lawmakers from various countries stood up one by one and exposed Turkish government hypocrisy of labeling his critics as terrorists. I want to acknowledge them by quoting what they said to the faces of Turkish deputies from the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Danish politician from the Liberal Party Michael Aastrup Jensen, who is also the vice chairperson of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said: “Although, on one hand, I salute the Turkish delegation for taking up this issue, I must also say frankly that there are problems in Turkey. There are problems in a democratic country such as Turkey when the fight against terrorism is used as an excuse for labeling a lot of people terrorist sympathizers. We have seen mass arrests of ordinary people, perhaps just because they downloaded a Gülen app or something. That must not stand in a European country that calls itself democratic. That is not the way forward. That only ends up creating a breeding ground for terrorist organizations and radical views, and it must stop.”

Jensen highlighted an absolutely terrific point that tens of thousands of people are locked up in Turkey because they downloaded a WhatsApp-like messaging application called ByLock that was publicly available on Google Play. This is what David Kaye, the UN Freedom of Opinion and Expression special rapporteur, described as the “criminalization of encryption” in his damning report on Turkey released during the special session on Turkey as part of the UN Human Rights Sessions in Geneva. The application that Reuters called an unsecure chatting program based on dozens of expert opinions was nevertheless touted as a highly secretive messaging service identifying coup plotters and members of the Gülen movement.

Yet the Turkish government did not present any incriminating content on communications allegedly used by tens of thousands of people. Simply downloading the program is enough to charge somebody with terrorism, even if that broadband was used by more than one person in the household or the business. In several bizarre cases, suspects who owned archaic mobile phone that are not capable of downloading or installing smart phone apps were also charged with terror on purported ByLock evidence.

Many believe the Turkish government just made up this hoax, engineered so-called evidence based on the profiling of unsuspecting innocent citizens by the notorious Turkish intelligence. Aydın Sefa Akay, a UN judge on the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) who has immunity, was arrested on ByLock charges and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years on terror claims despite a strong protest by the UN.

Picking up after Jensen, spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left Nikolaj Villumsen delivered a speech critical of Turkey, saying that he had been declared a “terrorist” by the Turkish president because he was one of the election observers who wrote a critical report on Turkey’s April 16 referendum, which gave Erdoğan imperial powers without any check and balances.

“I had the honor of being invited to participate in this assembly’s delegation to observe the Turkish referendum. As you are all aware, that referendum did not live up to democratic standards. When the delegation said that, President Erdoğan clearly became angry with us. All of a sudden, despite having been invited to Turkey by Erdoğan’s government, I was pointed at as a terrorist, as was one of my colleagues.”

He further added that “Luckily, I am not a parliamentarian in Turkey. If I were, I would probably be in jail right now, as many of our colleagues are. I am a parliamentarian in Denmark, so I can stand here today and tell my story, which shows that the fight against terror is not taken seriously in Turkey. It is misused to jail the opposition.”

Villumsen concluded by saying that “it is simply not acceptable for a Council of Europe Member State to misuse the fight against terror to jail its opposition. When we say clearly today that terror must be fought, it is important that we also say clearly to the Turkish delegation that the jailed opposition parliamentarians must be released.”

The most important criticism of Turkey came from French senator Josette Durrieu, who turned the tables on Turkey, accusing the government and Erdoğan of what she said was “funding and manipulating radical ideology.”

“We now have to deal with Daesh – I very much hope we will soon see the end of Daesh in Syria – and many states have found themselves caught up in the fight against terrorism. We have had some successes, through intelligence sharing, in thwarting a number of attacks, but we must also acknowledge our failures. We must recognize that the root cause of radical jihadism in all its forms is a radical ideology that is manipulated and funded by certain powers. I am thinking of Libya, Iran and Turkey – and we know who we are talking about. This phenomenon is still with us, and it is evolving. It only takes someone to have a truck or a van to be able to kill people, or someone can just go out with a knife and kill people, as we have seen,” she remarked.

Durrieu concluded that “people have been radicalized, and if we are to combat terrorism, we need to understand its causes and the thinking behind it. We need to understand it and see it for what it really is, because unless we truly do so, we will never be able to combat it. We want a stable and free society throughout the world, and that is what will enable us to defeat terrorism. In Turkey, people should certainly be released, which would be a step towards eradicating terrorism.”

There is abundant evidence that the Erdoğan government armed, funded, provided logistics and facilitated the trafficking of jihadists between Turkey and Syria for years. Instead of prosecuting jihadists, the Turkish government is going after journalists who expose radical networks in Turkey.

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Swedish-based advocacy group that tracks rights violations in Turkey, the Erdoğan government had locked up 266 journalists as of July 1, 2017 and is seeking the arrest of an additional 105. This is a world record by any measure and shows the gravity of the situation of the rule of law, rights and freedoms.

Turkey under Erdoğan’s power-grabbing extremist Islamist regime has become a rogue state that aids and abets radical jihadist groups. He thinks he can bully Turkey’s allies and partners by using proxy radical groups as trump cards while jailing an ever-growing number of opposition members and critics in order to cling to power. He is fanning the disgust and resentment of his regime further, as the PACE debate showed.

It is time for Turkey’s allies to back up their growing criticism of the Turkish government with concrete policy actions such as sanctions and travel restrictions to send a clear and unambiguous message to Erdoğan that enough is enough, that he will not be appeased and that his political repression will no longer be tolerated.

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Masks off for Erdoğan’s ‘FETÖ’ enablers who succumb to the oppressor’s narrative

The use of the hateful term “FETÖ” has now turned into a buzzword in Turkey as the oppressor, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has entrenched this despicable phrase in the psyche and minds of the Turkish people.

Not only did he coin the term but also engineered a society under the spell of fake news that resulted in a culture that is indifferent, silent, deaf and blind to hundreds of thousands of victims from the Gülen movement. Now, rapists, murderers and even couples who go through terrible divorces invoke “FETÖ” to earn a favorable reading from judges, while government officials who jockey for position tell “FETÖ” lies to get rid of competitors for promotions and reassignments.

Turkey’s top hate-mongering leader, who is bent on dividing and polarizing 80 million people in Turkey and some 5 million abroad, appears to have discovered that the best way to oppress people is to construct a false identity with fabricated stories and fake narratives. Having decimated critical and independent media in Turkey by shutting down 200 media outlets, jailing 266 journalists and intimidating almost all media owners, Erdoğan has managed to get a freer hand in running his own propaganda machine to circulate these self-serving narratives, “FETÖ” being the top catchphrase.

Stripped of everything including their basic rights to live a decent life that is free from fear and imprisonment, oppressed Gülen members were denied a voice when almost all avenues were shut down to give their own message based on facts and truth. They are unable to challenge the lies and smears circulated by the Erdoğan regime in Turkey not only in public debate but also in the courtroom, where no lawyer is willing to represent their interests. Frustrated with having little or no impact on changing the prevailing narrative domestically, Turkey’s millions of oppressed people feel further stigmatized and abused in their homeland. In the end, we have many innocent people in Turkey and abroad who are traumatized with feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.

There is no single piece of evidence in its 60-year past indicating or even hinting that the Gülen movement is associated with any sort of violence. Rather, Mr. Fethullah Gülen has always opposed violence, and he has a track record of consistency on that from the late 1970s when nationalists and communists were murdering each other in the streets to the 1990s, when the government-backed Hizbullah and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were executing members of the other side. Gülen was quite vocal in condemning al-Qaeda when it struck the US on 9/11 and came out strongly against murderous jihadists including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by running ads in major media outlets from the US to France.

Opposed to Erdoğan’s meddlesome policies starting in 2011 when the Arab revolutions started and quite critical of the arming and supporting of jihadist groups by the Turkish government, Gülen drew the ire of Turkey’s Islamist rulers, who set out to criminalize the cleric’s network with plots. Erdoğan told his associates that he could very well brand him as a terrorist by enlisting a loyalist prosecutor, judge and two police officers who would help Erdoğan build a false case against Gülen. He delivered on that conspiracy starting from January 2014 and asked the US to extradite him. Yet nobody bought into that story, given Gülen’s public record and lack of evidence of any sort hinting at violence or terror. Erdoğan made his best move on July 15, 2106 when he orchestrated a bloody botched coup with his intel and military chiefs.

Erdoğan immediately pinned the attempt on Gülen and declared the coup to be a blessing from God. Some 120,000 people were detained and close to 50,000 were formally arrested including teachers, doctors, academics, union workers, journalists, judges, prosecutors, housewives and military and police officers from a list that was apparently drawn up long before the failed coup. Turkey’s NATO allies did not buy into Erdoğan’s story of “FETÖ” (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) as Erdoğan has, once again, failed to present any direct, solid evidence implicating Gülen himself or his network as a whole.

But the opposition in Turkey has been scared of Erdoğan’s intentions and is very much concerned about how far the president is willing to go to get what he wants. Some agreed to use oppressor Erdoğan’s narrative willingly out of their bias towards Gülen, while others who were cowed into Erdoğan’s scaremongering tactics started parroting his narrative to stay safe.

For example, opposition parties such as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) quickly jumped on the bandwagon of Erdoğan by not objecting to this hateful “FETÖ” phrase’s unqualified use. The Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) racist leader, Devlet Bahçeli, who hates Gülen’s global appeal to people from all races and ethnicities happily followed Erdoğan’s lead.

For one reason or another, they adopted the government line, hoping that they would be spared, left alone or even receive some incentives financial or otherwise from the president’s office. By doing so, they did not realize that they were actually helping the oppressor Erdoğan shift the blame to the victim instead of focusing on the perpetrator, who is no other than the president of the Turkish Republic.

They also lend legitimacy to the claims of the man who is famous for fabricating news and creating alternative facts when his back is pushed to the wall. He made up an assassination story for his daughter involving Gülen and the main opposition party. When that was exposed by the investigating prosecutor, the case was quickly hushed up and the prosecutor dismissed from the case. Fake stories fed to the media from Erdoğan’s office make up a long list, from the Gezi Park events to illegal arms shipments to jihadists.

But Erdoğan has always managed to find a scapegoat on whom to shift the blame, and Gülen had been made into the usual suspect for anything that goes wrong in Turkey, from raising interest rates to even earthquakes. Unfortunately, opposition parties have fueled Erdoğan’s hateful campaign. That contributed to growing repression, deepening polarization, xenophobia and intolerance in Turkish society. It put them in the bad company of Erdoğan and his ilk, contributed to losing their credibility and hurt their appeal, honesty and integrity. If those who oppose Erdoğan cannot liberate themselves from their oppressor’s narrative, that means they have already lost the battle. Perhaps better to shut down these political parties and replace them with fan clubs for, say, a bird watching society.

It is really sad to see that many in Turkey easily adopt the oppressor Erdoğan’s language in a way to avoid the government’s wrath, deflect a barrage of criticism and mislead others into believing that the victimized group bears the fault and deserves punishment, albeit extreme. They allow Erdoğan to impose the oppressor’s narrative in the discussion and frame the debate on the oppressor’s terms. The ultimate goal is to force the view on victims that they must tolerate being vilified, dehumanized and marginalized.

We must protest the assumptions put forward by perpetrators like Erdoğan, react strongly every time they are invoked and avoid reinforcing the use of this hateful “FETÖ” term. We must reclaim the power of language and not give in to Erdoğan, who exposes millions to racist, intolerant and hateful speeches effectively every day when he delivers public speeches televised live by the dozens of networks he controls in Turkey. That coverage gets carried to overseas expat communities who watch the poisonous news bites on satellite.

Insults, humiliation and name calling hurled at the participants of the Gülen movement by Erdoğan and his Islamist associates help demonize and dehumanize this critical and vulnerable group. That must be condemned systematically in every platform, public or private, and perpetrators must be exposed, named and shamed for doing so. Cast-out Gülen members who yearn for justice should be recognized and helped as they deserve a decent life and basic human dignity.

The Turkish government is in blatant breach of fundamental rights of the Gülen people to live a decent life, free from abuse, torture and ill treatment. Instead of fostering tolerance and equality as a responsible government, Erdoğan and his associates rule Turkey as if they had been granted carte blanche to stigmatize any group they dislike. Although members of the Gülen movement bear the brunt of this persecution unprecedented in Turkish history, they are certainly not alone. Kurds and Alevis have also been facing a crackdown, although it appears to be to a lesser degree in contrast.

The Turkish government ought to be reminded that all human beings are born free and entitled to unalienable rights and that they should be enjoying liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Participants of the global Gülen movement who dream of a peaceful, conflict-free world have been striving to establish bridges of dialogue by focusing on interfaith dialogue, something Erdoğan despises and unequivocally rules out as un-Islamic. They have dreams and beliefs that they have every right to try to fulfill and spread the message. They must feel safe and secure from those who believe they have a right to pass judgment or interfere with such dreams. Erdoğan wants to crush these dreams and thwart interfaith and intercultural activities with his hateful narrative and hostile attitude.

All in all, “FETÖ” has now become a catch phrase for anything bad in Turkey as the government casts a wider net to pull anybody in who is critical of the government under the term, regardless of whether they actually belong to, sympathize with or hate Fethullah Gülen. Ahmet Şık, who wrote a book critical of Gülen, was dragged to jail on ‘FETÖ” charges. Opposition CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu was imprisoned on similar charges. The list goes on and on.

The only way to get out of this vicious cycle is to deny the “FETÖ” hoax, stop using the oppressor’s language and undermine Erdoğan’s narrative at its core. That means holding the line on the true perspective that the Gülen movement is not a terrorist or violent group but rather a civic group that has been actively involved in science education, community contribution and interfaith dialogue. Hoax, fake news or alternative facts can only be defeated by advocating the facts and truths, not by playing Erdoğan’s game and trying to put distance from the movement.

Let’s remember that Erdoğan is out to destroy the goodness in people’s hearts and minds, and we should not enable and empower him by adopting his vile and oppressive language. Time to drop the pretense, refuse to succumb to Erdoğan’s narrative and reject his overtures. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should be commended and acknowledged for its efforts in resisting attempts to use “FETÖ” terms by Erdoğan’s henchmen in its April session. Despite two amendments offered by Erdoğan’s people on the Turkey report, PACE overwhelmingly refused to use the term and instead referred to the group as “the Gülen movement.” Let’s hope others take hints from this powerful message.

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Turkey released ISIL Diyarbakır emir despite evidence

Yet another trial involving the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) network in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarbakır has gone bust, thanks but no thanks to the political Islamist regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who effectively calls the shots in the nation’s criminal justice system that apparently goes easy on jihadist groups.

On June 20, 2017, during a hearing at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, a panel of judges decided to free the three remaining suspects in a case that indicted ISIL’s alleged emir of Diyarbakır, Nihat Turan, his arms procurer and militant trafficker Mahmut Demirtaş and logistics man Mustafa Deniz, who managed safe houses for ISIL, also known as ISIS, IS or Daesh.

These three dangerous men had been in pretrial detention since a deadly police raid on ISIL safe houses in Diyarbakır on Oct. 26, 2015, which resulted in the killing of seven ISIL militants and two police officers. They were released despite overwhelming evidence gathered against them including illegal weapons, ammunition, explosives, jihadist documents and wiretap records.

As a result of a series of absurd decisions in this case, no suspect is left in pretrial detention in a major ISIL case where 18 suspects were originally charged with terrorism, possession of illegal firearms and explosives. Of these, 16 suspects were arrested and put behind bars pending trial in the aftermath of sweeping police operations in Diyarbakır. As part of the well-established pattern in Turkey’s courts, however, ISIL suspects are often let go in groups at hearings. That is exactly what happened in Diyarbakır’s ISIL case, where the indicted suspects face up to 37 years’ jail time on very serious charges.

The court had already released 12 suspects — Orhan Turan, Osman Uçak, Mustafa Bünül, Veysi Özvaz, Mikail İçten, Abdurrahman Sarıdağ, Muhammed Ayaz, Cafer Erdem, Baran Yalçın, İrfan Çalar, Ömer Becerikli and Mustafa Baraçın — in the first hearing that was held on Oct. 25, 2016. Another suspect identified as Emrah Emre was let go during the second hearing on Jan.17, 2017. Two suspects were never arrested but were indicted and are being tried on similar charges.

The investigation into ISIL’s Diyarbakır cell where jihadists recruit from conservative Kurdish groups was launched when gendarmerie teams intercepted a suspicious car driving through the Selhan area near the Elbeyli district of Turkey’s border Kilis province on Sept. 16, 2015. Officers searched the vehicle and found a cache of weapons and ammunition including RPGs and detained four Syrian and Turkish nationals. Among the detainees was a Turkish man who turned out to be working for Demirtaş, ISIL’s weapons supplier who also traffics militants back and forth between Syria and Turkey. His boss is ISIL’s top man in Diyarbakır, Emir Nihat Turan.

Deepening the probe, investigators traced the car carrying arms to Turan and his associates, put surveillance on them and monitored their activities. A month later, they decided to round them up and crack down on the network before they staged a deadly attack in the city, which had already seen an ISIL attack on a political rally held by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on June 5, 2015.

On the day police launched the operation, 17 homes were raided in Diyarbakır and clashes erupted in two houses used by ISIL as safe places. In one house located in the Huzurevler neighborhood of the Kayapınar district in Diyarbakır, two police officers — Sadık Özcan (a 25-year-old resident of Adana) and Gökhan Çakıcı (a 22-year-old resident of Çorum) were killed. The militants threw a hand grenade at the police, who were trying to break down the door, while an explosion was set off on the second floor when a suicide bomber blew himself up.

In the raid on a second house, ISIL militants engaged in a firefight with police who broke into the house. The indictment says the militants shouted “Allah Akbar,” vowed to send the police officers to hell and started shooting at the police. In total, seven ISIL militants — Veysel Argunağa, Cahit Ölmez, Serhat Seyithanoğlu, Ergün Gül, Sıdık Bünül, Orhan Genç and Ersel Gergüy — were killed during the raids. Two suspects fled the scene. Five police officers were also wounded. A total of 31 suspects were detained in the operations, but prosecutor decided to charge only 18 of them.

During a search of the homes that were raided, police found hand grenades, five handguns, one AK-47, fuses, steel balls, explosives, jihadist literature and instructions from Raqqa. Numan Kurtulmuş, the government spokesman and deputy prime minister, said at the time: “This was an important operation. … We can say we have neutralized a major Daesh cell,” using the Arabic name for ISIL. Yet, how the court ruled to release all the suspects in what the deputy prime minister described as an important operation against an ISIL cell is mind boggling.

According to the indictment, Nihat Turan worked with ISIL in Syria and later was sent back to Turkey as a senior operative to coordinate cells in Diyarbakır. He was investigated in 2010 for his alleged involvement with al-Qaeda. He is now believed to be the ISIL emir for Diyarbakır province, where he has been running a religious center for reading and learning about the Quran. Investigators discovered digital media and printed documents in his car and residence. For example, in a 384-page document found in Turan’s car, informative notes about ISIL military and civilian training manuals such as the code of conduct, what to do when arrested and how to operate in secrecy were retrieved.

Surprisingly, Turan’s computer was recovered on Nov. 4, 2015 when a tip came in claiming that ISIL has been moving its archives to another safe house in the same neighborhood where the police raid took place. Upon examination of hard drives, police found 2,580 pages of Arabic documents that included Baghdadi’s speeches as well as video clips that showed ISIL forcing youngsters to execute hostages. All materials were sent to the prosecutor’s office on Nov. 17, 2015 for inclusion in the case file against him.

In court testimony, Turan denied all allegations and said he had been sympathetic towards Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but that he did not remember whether he was a member of the AKP. His lawyer claimed Turan and several other defendants in the case were associated with the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR), a political arm of the Kurdish Hizbullah, which is a close ally of President Erdogan’s AKP. HÜDA-PAR endorsed the president in an April 16, 2017 referendum that gave Erdogan huge powers. All convicted and charged Kurdish Hizbullah members have been released from jail in recent years thanks to Erdogan’s reshuffling of the judiciary through which Islamists were brought into the key positions

Turan claimed that the illegal gun found in his car was for his protection against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which he alleged had targeted him. In his defense, Turan even referred to remarks by Erdogan, who said, “My people should rise up and defend themselves.” Justifying what he did with the president’s narrative, Turan said, “Well, I defended myself.” That apparently set him free despite the fact that he is the number one suspect in the indictment.

The documents seized from the homes that were raided revealed that ISIL has developed quite comprehensive counterintelligence measures, identifying how Turkish security forces conduct surveillance and monitor suspects’ activities. Investigators were unable to crack some of the coded messages intercepted in wiretapped communications. In a notebook with some handwritten notes in it, physical surveillance methods used by the police were explained.

Police found an ISIL flag in the home of Mahmut Demirtaş, another key suspect in the case, and seized ISIL propaganda documents discovered in his car that included the Turkish version of the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, which was the first time a Turkish version of the pledge of allegiance had been uncovered in a police sweep. The telephone wiretaps recorded between Demirtaş and Turan showed that the two men suspected they were being followed by the security services and discussed how to evade surveillance.

They often changed mobile phones and used ones registered in other people’s names to avoid detection. In Demirtaş’s car investigators found three unused SIM cards for mobile phones. The men often talked on the phone, and these conversations were recorded in the prosecutor’s indictments. For example, on Sept. 15, 2015, Demirtaş and Turan talked 132 times on the phone. Demirtaş worked for Turan as a courier, leased safe houses for ISIL militants, moved arms and travelled between Turkey and Syria’s jihadist regions. In one recording that was included in the indictment, Turan was heard counting the inventory of four AK-47s and ammunition delivered by Demirtaş.

The third man who was let go by the court at the June 20, 2017 hearing is Mustafa Deniz, whose fingerprints were found in an ISIL safe house. The wiretap records showed him talking with Demirtaş about leasing a house for ISIL. He was carrying a fake ID. When the search warrant was executed on Deniz’s home, police found a gun, binoculars and a gun belt.

It is like a joke, but the court released Deniz on the grounds that the charges against him may change, hinting that lesser charges would likely be filed. It also added that judicial control measures (such as checking in with the police at regular intervals) would be sufficient. It is ironic that Deniz was a fugitive in the case when police raided the ISIL suspects’ homes on Oct. 26, 2015. When he was later caught, the number of suspects in the case rose to 18. Yet the court decided to release this man despite his record of running from the law. The pretext for releasing Turan and Demirtaş was also absurd. The court said their continuing detention would not be “proportionate and measured” to the crime alleged. Go figure!

The evidence that was uncovered from the scene of the deadly raid also led police to investigate a pro-government charity front, Islah-Der (Association for the Movement of Social Justice & Reform), which has been raising funds and recruiting militants since 2011. Yet this association was spared and continues to run its activities without any hindrance even today.

Unfortunately, there are many examples of similar cases in Turkey where ISIL suspects were let go despite serious incriminating evidence, which points to a deliberate and systematic pattern rather than random exceptions in the criminal justice system under the political cover provided by the Islamist regime of Erdogan. This case in Diyarbakır was simply the latest in a long series of what I call Turkey’s revolving door policy for jihadists. It is clear that an undeclared policy is in effect protecting jihadists despite public remarks to the contrary by Erdogan, who claims the government is fighting ISIL.

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Turkey Intel Knew ISIL Suicide Bomber, His Accomplices In The Murder Of Israelis

As in many recent cases involving Jihadists and radical militants, it came as no surprise to trace the footprints of Turkish intelligence in the ISIL suicide attack that killed three Israeli and one Iranian tourists on March 19, 2016 in İstanbul’s bustling hot spot, İstiklal Street, before the building of Greece Consulate.

The facial recognition and DNA evidence indicated that the heinous attack was perpetrated by 24-year old Turkish national named Mehmet Öztürk (born in 1992 in Gaziantep) who was described as withdrawn and reclusive by his family members. The bomber did frequently attend to meetings held by Muslim Youth Association (Müslüman Gençler Derneği) at a place located in Şehit Kamil district of Turkey’s Gaziantep, a southeastern province that is known as a hotbed for Jihadists and that is run by the Islamist ruling party AKP mayor Fatma Şahin.

The family of Öztürk says Mehmet Öztürk’s behavior visibly changed starting in 2014 after he had started going to this place. He refused to pray in mosques managed by the government religious directorate affairs (Diyanet), stopped using mobile phone, did not like watching TV or listening the music. His psych and social profile point out that he was the perfect candidate for the ISIL to recruit and have him join the ranks of trained suicide bombers.

The bomber had been operating as part of the cell run by Nusret Yılmaz out of Gaziantep under the watch of government agencies and intelligence services. The group is the mastermind of not only Beyoğlu attack but also the deadliest terror attack that has ever taken place in Turkey, which killed 107 people when two suicide bombers targeted NGOs and supporters of left-wing and pro-Kurdish parties holding a peace rally outside the Turkish capital’s main train station, weeks ahead of the Nov. 1, 2015 snap elections.

The body of evidence made public after the attacks demonstrated that Öztürk and others operating in Turkish ISIL’s Nusret Yılmaz group have been known to the Turkish intelligence and have been monitored, surveilled and wiretapped closely at least since 2012. Yet, none of their operatives were arrested, convicted and faced a through, effective and successful prosecution by the criminal justice system. Brief detention of some militants took place before ISIL struck with suicide bombers and some who got implicated in terror attacks including number one suspects were let go after the bombings happened.

The indictment filed with respect to the Ankara train station attack included a secret intel document by Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT) which confirms the long-held view that Turkish government knew all along the militants who were organized on the independent cell-based networks that were maintained by the ISIL. That included leaders, traffickers, smugglers and recruits. The five-pages document, prepared on September 2015 and distributed to all police departments across Turkey, Nusret Yılmaz group in Gaziantep was identified as leading the ISIL company in the conservative province.

Öztürk went to Syria in 2013 and returned to Turkey in late 2015 by crossing the border at Elbeyli district of border province Kilis. He kept working with ISIL network upon his return. He was flagged and profiled by the MİT as a person who is supportive of terror groups in Turkey. His intelligence file included his full name, travels to Syria, passport photos and acquaintances who were also identified as affiliated with ISIL network. In fact, when Öztürk blew himself up and killed foreign tourists in the center of İstanbul, MİT was the first agency to identify his remains from facial figures that matched to the one kept in the confidential files of the intelligence agency. The police intelligence took him for somebody else until the DNA testing matched from the sample taken from Öztürk’s parents.

It was clear the MİT knew him, yet, how he had somehow managed to make a 1257-km long trip from Adıyaman province in the southeast to İstanbul by wearing explosives without drawing any attention to law enforcement and intelligence services remains to be a mystery. The CCTV camera records show he went to the bus station in Adıyaman to purchase the ticket on March 18, 2016 at 16:44 hours while he was packing the explosive vest under his coat. After 13-hours on the bus, he arrived to İstanbul on March 19. Then, he got on the subway to get to Fatih district. From there, he used a cab to go directly to Taksim where he got off at the underpass. He proceeded directly to İstiklal street, located the Israeli tourist target before the building of Greek Consulate and pulled the switch by putting his hand in his pocket and triggered the explosion. It was like a clock work and he knew what he was doing.

The target and location was not random and the bomber is believed to be guided by handlers and/or spotters until the moment he decided to blow himself up. The footages also showed he made a similar trip on March 16 to scout the area and conduct the surveillance of possible targets before returning to Adıyaman to pick up the bomb. The suicide vest was packed with TNT and ammonium nitrate and killed three Israeli citizens identified as 60-year-old Simha Simon Demri, 40 year-old Yonathan Suher and 70-year-old Avaham Godman, along with an Iranian, 31-year-old Ali Rıza Khalman. 44 people were injured in the attack including 24 foreign nationals from various countries like Ireland, Germany, Iceland and others.

Five suspects — Hüseyin Kaya, Erkan Çapkın, Ercan Çapkın, İbrahim Güler and Mehmet Mustafa Çevik — have been identified as suspects in connection with the attack. They were all detained and formally arrested by the court pending trial. The indictment asked six consecutive life sentences for suspects Kaya and Çapkın brothers on one count of ‘attempting to destroy the constitutional order of Turkish Republic’ and five counts of “murder.” They also face various sentences on 44 counts for attempting to murder, being administrators in a terror organization, possessing dangerous explosives, and threats to public security. Çevik and Gürler face up to 15-year jail time on charges of membership to a terror group if they got convicted. Police found two explosive-laden suicide vests buried in the ground during a raid to the farm house in Gaziantep and believe Çevik and Gürler were groomed to be suicide bombers as well.

Despite serious charges, the İstanbul No.23 High Criminal Court decided to release Erkan Çapkın on health grounds during the trial hearing held on March 9, 2017. Erkan Çapkın denied all charges in his testimony to the court and he was let go while so many political detainees in Turkey with serious health conditions were denied from release. His brother Ercan Çapkın admitted his involvement in the lease of the farm house to ISIL militants although he said he did not know the bomber Mehmet Öztürk and other suspects in the case. None of the suspects were physically present in the courtroom during the hearing and they were linked to the court through video feed from the jail cells using the communication system called SEGBİS.

This fits the pattern we have seen in all the other high-profile ISIL cases where suspects often release in trial hearings. It is clear that the current Turkish government, run by Islamist zealots, has been turning a blind eye to Jihadist networks in Turkey since 2011 when Arab revolutions started. Erdoğan’s government even helped, financed and armed Jihadists including al-Qaeda and ISIL militants to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime and replace him with a proxy Islamist regime. For that, ISIL and al-Qaeda cells were allowed to operate in raising militants, trafficking fighters, procuring logistical supplies and arms in and through Turkey. All this nasty and dirty clandestine business has been going on under the protection of Turkish intelligence agency MİT. The courts, tightly controlled by Erdogan regime, has been releasing detained Jihadists after brief detentions because of this policy by Erdoğan government.

Turkish government knew pretty much all Jihadist operatives, tracked their movements, wiretapped their communications and monitored their activities closely. A cache of documents found among digital archives that were seized from Yunus Durmaz, the senior ISIL operative in the country, during the police raid on ISIL safe house in Gaziantep’s Şehit Kamil district on May 2016, revealed how ISIL planned attacks on foreign tourists. For example, in a document titled WRD0904.TMP.DOCX, Durmaz recorded his exchanges with the ISIL Emir in Syria which revealed his endeavors to seek the approval of his plans targeting Jews and Christians by the higher-up in ISIL command structure. In another document titled haci.docx, he promises to find out meeting places attended by Jews and Christians.

The letters show that his requests were approved by ISIL that instructed him to find touristic targets that have more foreigners than Turks. In the document, titled Dek.docx.DOCX, ISIL Emir said “the point where you are going to stage the attack must be a venue frequented by Europeans and not attended by Turks,” the order said. In the document, titled ahagenegeldi.docx, the ISIL Emir talks about air strikes against Jihadists in Syria and complains about the heavy causalities they sustained. He asked Turkish operative Durmaz to stage suicide attacks on touristic target to raise the morale of ISIL militants in Syria and take a revenge on the enemy. Upon the approval, Durmaz said he sent militants to identify targets in touristic places.

Turkish intelligence was aware of these activities while ISIL militants were scrambled to organize attacks with known Jihadists and their handlers and enablers. For example, according to the testimony by ISIL suspect Ersen Çelik (a.k.a. Ebu Musa, born in 1987 in Turkey’s western province Denizli) who told the police in Gaziantep on August 8, 2015 during his detention that the MİT knew all the suicide bombers in Turkey. Çelik who spent some time in both al-Qaeda group Nusra Front and ISIL network in Syria since 2012 said in his deposition that he informed both the MİT and police anti-terror unit in Ankara about the names of suicide bombers while he was working in Syria. He said the WhatsApp chats with intelligence officers are still recorded in his phone.

Çelik went to Syria in 2012 to fight in the ranks of Nusra Front and returned to Turkey in 2014 to shop for drones for the use of the Jihadist group. He spent six months in Turkey’s southeastern province Adana before returning to Manbij areas to join the ISIL. He is a musician and tach-savvy guy that was promoted to Emir position in handling surveillance, electronic monitoring activities for the ISIL. He bought two drones in İstanbul at a cost of $50,000 and helped ISIL set up electronic monitoring center in Aleppo. When he came back to Gaziantep, he was detained on August 6, 2015. The indictment asks upto 15 year jail time for him. His case is still pending.

Ersen’s parents informed the police about him when he also took his 13-year old brother E.Ç. to Syria in one of his trips during the summer of 2014. İlyas Çelik, his father, said his son married to an Arab woman in Syria and had a kid from the marriage. He said Ersen used to come home three to four months intervals, told his parents that he fought for ISIL, rebels and worked for charity group in Syria. The father said he petitioned to the police, prosecutor’s office and the governor’s office about retrieving his sons from Syria but his efforts remained futile.

All these documents, testimonials and official court proceedings suggest a pattern by which ISIL and al-Qaeda networks have been mushrooming in Turkey with the full knowledge and at times with the help of Turkish intelligence service MİT. For political gains, Erdoğan appears to have been directing the intel services to facilitate, enable and empower Jihadist enterprise while thwarting the criminal justice system from cracking down hard on the detained suspects. That is why hundreds of ISIL and al-Qaeda suspects were released after brief detentions in Turkey while 264 journalists were locked away on trumped up charges because of their critical writings and comments on despotic Erdoğan regime.

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Turkey Turned Blind Eye On ISIL’s Mona Lisa Jihadist Wife And Turkish Suicide Bomber Husband

For Jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Turkey has been not only a transit country but also a sanctuary and recruitment ground for militants who manage to raise funds, run logistical lines across the border and deploy suicide bombers to send a message to the world.

Several high-profile ISIL (also known as ISIS or Daesh) cases in Turkey seem to be suggesting a systematic pattern of enabling and empowering radical groups in Turkey under the country’s pack of Islamist rulers led by a repressive and xenophobic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There has never been a real crackdown on radical groups in Turkey other than pretending or posturing to ease the pressure when Ankara came under intense scrutiny from allies and partners, especially the US, Russia and China.

I have written extensively on these cases where notorious Turkish intelligence organization and paramilitary forces such as SADAT — that work directly under the command of Erdoğan, the top Islamist — enabled radical militants in Turkey and abroad. Here I will talk in detail on how an ISIL suicide bomber and his foreign bride evaded scrutiny in Turkey, moved around comfortably and were even let go despite they were tipped off by their family members and flagged by the authorities as Jihadists. The case also reveals the appeal of Turkey for women Jihadists who made a trip to Syria to join their brethren and even get married to fellow militants.

Walentina Slobodjan obtained a fake Turkish ID in Turkey.
The case involves a twenty-two-year-old woman who was called a terrorist with a Mona Lisa smile. Her name is Walentina Slobodjanjuk, and named as a suspect in a leading ISIL case in Turkey. The Europol records show that Slobodjanjuk was born in Kazakhistan on May 1995 but owned a German passport No L6Y6YXLF50Y, indicating that she holds a German citizenship. The indictment charges her on membership to a terrorist group and fraud on official documents.

She faces an outstanding detention warrant that was issued by Ankara No.3 Criminal Court of Peace on Feb.23, 2016 by a ruling No.2016/1143. The indictment listed her as 25th suspect in the ISIL case of a twin bombing that took place in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015 — the deadliest terror attack ever to take place in Turkey, which killed 107 people including the two suicide bombers. The attack targeted NGOs and supporters of left-wing and pro-Kurdish parties holding a peace rally outside the capital’s main train station, weeks ahead of the Nov. 1, 2015 snap elections that gave Turkey’s embattled President Erdoğan and his party a chance to regain the majority in Parliament.

Ömer Deniz Dündar and Mahmut Gazi Dündar (R).
Slobodjanjuk is believed to be the Jihadist wife to Ömer Deniz Dündar (A.K.A. Ammar), 24-year old Turkish national and resident of Adıyaman province. According to Turkish government’s account based on DNA tests, Dündar was one of the twin suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the Turkish capital nearby government buildings on Oct.10th. In two separate documents found among digital archieves that were seized from a police raid on ISIL safe house in Turkey, Dündar was named along with four others as potential suicide bombers who are ready to take action upon orders from Syria’s ISIL Emir. Dündar was carrying a fraudulent ID drawn on the name of Emre Kaya, a Turkish real estate broker, to evade detection. Kaya denied knowing Dündar during the police interview.

When investigators traced the GSM signals of the mobile phone No. 532-675-0477 that was used by Slobodjanjuk while she was in Turkey, they found out that its signals came from a cell tower located in Gaziantep province between the dates of October 3 and October 15, 2015, around the time Ankara attack took place. She reportedly met Dündar in Syria in 2014 and both got married there. She was believed to have come back to Turkey in 2014 and spent some time with the family in Adıyaman province. Slobodjanjuk remains to be a fugitive as of today while body remnants of her Jihadist husband were identified as one of the suicide bombers in the deadly Ankara attack.

Walentina Slobodjan indicted as 25th suspect in ISIL case in Turkey.
According to the indictment, Slobodjanjuk conspired with two key ISIL suspects Halil İbrahim Durgun — one of the organizers of Ankara train station attack and allegedly blew himself up during a police operation in Gaziantep on November 15, 2015 in order not to get caught—and Yunus Durmaz — an Afghan trained hard-core ISIL militant who led one of the most secretive ISIL cell in Turkey and the mastermind of the Ankara attack.

When police raided the house belonging to Durmaz in Akkent neighborhood of Şahinbey District in Turkey’s southeastern province Gaziantep, a hotbed for radical militants near Syrian border, a Turkish national ID card for the name of Yıldız Bozkurt was found. The photo on the ID belonged to Slobodjanjuk although details of the identity card showed her as Turkish national residing in Gaziantep. It was a high-quality fraudulent ID card that allowed Slobodjanjuk to move around easily without a detection.

Police interviewed Turkish women Yıldız Bozkurt whose identity was assumed by Slobodjanjuk to find out how her ID ended up in an apartment No.19 in Akkent neighborhood with Jihadist woman’s photo. Bozkurt said she never loaned her ID to anybody, did not know Slobodjanjuk. She also said some of the details in the ID did not match to hers such as birth date and her father’s name.

The intercepted ISIL communique shows that Syrian militant group that coordinates the travel of foreign fighters from/to Syria attached special importance to Slobodjanjuk and her Turkish husband. They were even offered a VIP-like special travel arrangements for them to move in and out of Turkish Syrian border. Dündar’s involvement in the deadliest terror attack in Turkey proved this asset’s value for the terrorist network.

It is regrettable that this terror attack was not prevented despite all the road markers indicating that Dündar would become a dangerous terrorist were known to Turkish authorities that were aware of his connections to radical groups but did not take any action until his body turned up in pieces in the suicide attack. His grieving father, Mehmet Dündar, said that he filed complaints with police and prosecutor’s office about her son, informed them about his travels to Syria and named names in the militant network his son had interacted both in Turkey and Syria. The first complaint by father Mehmet Dündar and his wife Asiye Dündar was made to Fatih police station on Sept.9, 2013.

Ömer Deniz Dündar first went to Syria in 2013 to join Jihadists, prompting his father to go all the way to rebel camps in Aleppo to try to pick him up and bring him back. The father managed to locate the camps run by Jihadists and he was told that his son was brought in with a group of 15. But Jihadist group’s commander, a Turkish national from Batman province who said he served 15 years jail time in İstanbul, refused to arrange a meeting with father and the son. He told the father his son would be martyred in Syria. Frustrated father came back empty handed but reported what happened to the police with names of all Jihadists. Surprisingly, Dündar showed up in Adıyaman in 2014 and stayed with his father in Turkey for eight months before going back to Syria again.

Dündar’s twin brother Mahmut Gazi Dündar also joined Jihadist groups in Syria in 2013. Gazi Dündar and his wife Merve Dündar are believed to be among suicide bombers who remain at large as of today. Interestingly enough, father Mehmet Dündar said he received a Facebook message from Gazi Dündar in the wake of Oct.10th suicide attack in Ankara, saying that his son told him they were well. Police believe Gazi Dündar, Slobodjanjuk and another man named Muhammet Zana Alkan all crossed to Turkey to stage suicide bombing attacks. It was also rumored that Gazi Dündar was detained by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) after Tell Abyad offensive in May 2015.

When Ömer Deniz Dündar came back to Turkey in 2014, his father, Mehmet Dündar, reported his son’s activities to police, hoping that Turkish authorities will prevent him from going back to Syria again. But police simply let him go after a brief questioning. The family’s appeal with the Offices of Prime Ministry and Presidency did not go anywhere either. Fatma Dündar, the sister of twin brothers Ömer Deniz and Mahmut Gazi wrote to Prime Ministry’s hotline called BİMER on September 18, 2013, stating that her brothers were missing for two weeks now. She said when the family filed a missing case report with the police, they learned that some 100 children were reported to be missing in connection to Jihadist groups operating in Adıyaman. When she did not get any response, on September 24, 2013, Fatma also filed similar complaint with the Office of Presidency.

It is mind-boggling that authorities did not do anything substantial to crack down on this case despite the fact that Dündar’s family ordeal also attracted the national media. Both the father and the mother appeared on CNN Türk TV network in 2013, making a public plea for locating their sons and asking authorities to do something about their kids and others who have gone missing on Jihadist adventures. After the network aired the segment and the daily Radikal published a story about that, specially authorized public prosecutor in Malatya launched an al-Qaeda investigation.

The probe uncovered a deadly Jihadist network known as Dokumacılar group led by Mustafa Dokumacı who had been recruiting militants for radical groups in Syria. Ömer Deniz Dündar was also suspect in the investigation. Yet, in a sudden move in 2014, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided to abolish specially authorized prosecutors and courts that has great experience and knowledge in prosecuting terror cases. When Abdullah Gül, then the President of Turkey and another Islamist, signed the bill into law on March 2014, the case pursued by a special prosecutor in Malatya was transferred to Adıyaman.

The public prosecutor in conservative province Adıyaman completed investigation in the fall of 2014 but decided to drop charges against Ömer Deniz Dündar and 18 other suspects despite the body of evidence including wiretap communications revealed their involvement in Jihadist business. The prosecutor in Adıyaman eventually filed a criminal suit on December 26, 2014 against three suspects Mustafa Dokumacı, Mehmet İşbar and Salih Küçüktaş after all three already crossed into Syria while authorities were listening their communications that revealed their travel plans. In other words, Turkish authorities knew the three would escape but they released them after questioning. It was simply impossible for the prosecutor to discontinue this very serious case on most suspects without an approval from the government that effectively controls Turkish judiciary. The three that were charged in the case were questioned but released before.

If Ömer Deniz Dündar got prosecuted and convicted, 107 people could have been alive today. Rightfully so, the father now says the man who is really responsible for Ankara carnage is Adıyaman police chief whom he begged for the arrest of his son way before the suicide attack took place but the authorities have done nothing to crackdown on Jihadist network. Why? Perhaps raising militants to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Erdoğan’s arch-enemy, was more important for Islamist rulers in Turkey.

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