Life sentences sought for 55 suspects in new Turkish intel trucks indictment

Life sentences sought for 55 suspects in new Turkish intel trucks indictment

Life sentences sought for 55 suspects in new Turkish intel trucks indictment An Istanbul prosecutor has sought three life sentences each for a total of 55 suspects in a new indictment regarding a case into trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT). 

The indictment by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor İrfan Fidan was prepared upon determining new suspects after four previous indictments concerning the stopping and searching of MİT trucks in southern Turkey in early 2014 while they allegedly were carrying weapons to Syria. 

According to Fidan, the “imam” suspects responsible for stopping the trucks held phone calls with the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General.

“Imam,” which traditionally refers to a religious public worker, is a term used by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen to mark local leadership.

The indictment named a total of 55 suspects, including a major general, two colonels, two lieutenant colonels, seven majors, 11 captains and one former MİT personnel. 

Eleven civilian “imams,” who were in charge of gendarmerie officers at the scene where the trucks were stopped and those who organized and directed the act, were determined, according to the indictment. 

Among the 11 “imams,” one is under arrest, while the remaining 10 are fugitives. In addition, five of them are teachers, two are faculty members, one is a health ministry employee, one is a labor and social security ministry employee and the last one is an expert at the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). 

According to the new indictment, these “imams” were at the scene and used operational lines between Jan. 1 and 19, 2014. The “imams” spoke among each other and with the soldiers under their command for 19 days by these phones and canceled the lines on the night of Jan. 19, 2014. 

Moreover, the indictment also said the “imams” went to the scene to manage the stopping of the intelligence trucks. 

The order to stop the trucks, meanwhile, was given by Gülen himself, according to the testimony of a secret witness, who also said that then-“imam” of the Land Forces Command went to the U.S. to have a face-to-face meeting with Gülen, where he received the order to stop the trucks. 

Furthermore, two civilian “imams” at the scene, Bayra Andaç and Muharrem Gözüküçük, spoke to the U.S. Embassy a day after the trucks were stopped on July 20, 2014, the indictment said. 

According to the indictment, Andaç, who is a teacher, called and spoke to the embassy for 48 seconds on July 20 before having another phone call that lasted for 46 seconds. Later in the day, Andaç was determined to have spoken with the U.S. Istanbul Consulate for 36 seconds. 

Similarly, Gözüküçük, a labor and social security ministry employee, also held two separate phone calls with the U.S. Embassy, which lasted for 155 and 33 seconds each. 

A prosecutor’s office sent a note to the U.S. Embassy, asking for the reasons behind the phone calls and with whom the calls were held. 

The stopping of the MİT trucks led to fury from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who denied that the trucks were carrying weapons to Syria in a speech he delivered on Nov. 24, 2015.

The issue once again came to Turkey’s attention recently with the arrest of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Enis Berberoğlu. 
A court on June 14 ruled that Berberoğlu had “knowingly helped a terror organization” by “leaking state secrets” to the media.

The arrest of the CHP deputy, who is also the former editor-in-chief of daily Hürriyet, is part of a court case in which journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül of daily Cumhuriyet are also on trial over publishing the footage of the incident. Dündar is currently living in exile in Germany and Gül still works at the daily. 

Berberoğlu was accused of providing video material of the search of the trucks to Cumhuriyet.