Turkey Detains ‘Syria Arms Interception’ Prosecutors

8 May 2015 – Ankara (AFP) — Turkish authorities on Thursday detained four prosecutors and one military officer in a controversial case over the interception last year of trucks that allegedly contained arms bound for neighbouring Syria.

The four Turkish prosecutors had been reassigned and then suspended after they ordered the search of several trucks and buses in the southern provinces of Hatay and Adana near the Syrian border in January 2014 on suspicions of smuggling ammunition and arms into Syria. The four — the former chief prosecutor for the southern region of Adana Suleyman Bagriyanik and his deputies Ozcan Sisman, Aziz Takci and Ahmet Karaca — were detained and were in court in Adana, the official Anatolia news agency said.

A series of documents had circulated on the Internet claiming the seized trucks were actually Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) vehicles delivering weapons to Syrian Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has vehemently denied aiding Islamist rebels in Syria, such as the Islamic State (IS) group, although it wants to see Assad toppled. The government has imposed a full blown media blackout, including on Facebook and Twitter, prohibiting publication of the allegations. The four prosecutors have been charged with seeking the overthrow of the government, to paralyse its operations and also of espionage. They face life imprisonment if convicted, Anatolia reported.

‘Supporting IS barbarians’

“We witnessed a night when law went bankrupt and courtesy was turned upside down,” Bagriyanik, former chief prosecutor of Adana, said as he was detained by the police. “No matter what, everyone will see the reality,” he added. “I am being detained right now just because I did not listen to Mr Minister’s ‘Do not search trucks’ order and threats, and did not stop my colleagues from doing so. What more can I say?”

Sisman meanwhile rubbished the claims of espionage. “They must explain for which state I did espionage. I’ve worked on espionage cases for years… It is a crime to bring in a state prosecutor this way and those who commit this crime will be punished.” Former Colonel Ozkan Cokay, who was the highest-ranking Turkish military commander in the region when the scandal started, was also detained, Anatolia said. The controversy erupted on January 19, 2014 when Turkish forces stopped trucks bound for Syria suspected to have been loaded with weapons. But they then found MIT personnel were on board. The Turkish authorities have sought to blame the scandal on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of running a parallel state through supporters in the judiciary and police with the aim of usurping him.

Supporters of Gulen, who have been pressured by a wave of arrests in the past months, reject the allegations. Turkey has already remanded in custody pending trial 17 soldiers implicated in the affair on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation. Foreign rights groups have expressed concern in recent months over the broad judicial campaign against groups in Turkish society deemed to be Gulen supporters. In a speech ahead of parliamentary elections on June 7, the leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP Selahattin Demirtas accused Erdogan of arming Islamic State extremists including via the truck delivery. “He really supported the IS barbarians. Sent weapons in the trucks,” Demirtas said. “Doesn’t the whole world know this? They are arresting the prosecutors but, sorry, the whole world knows most of the weapons in IS hands came from Turkey.”