Turkish police detain 28 in anti-al-Qaeda op, raid on İHH office

Turkish police detain 28 in anti-al-Qaeda op, raid on İHH office

Turkish police detain 28 in anti-al-Qaeda op, raid on İHH office

The press coordinator of the İHH, Serkan Nergis, has shared this photo on Twitter.

Turkish police have detained 28 people in an operation into al-Qaeda held simultaneously in six provinces on Jan. 14, followed by the dismissal of a senior police officer in Kilis following raids on a local Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) branch.

The simultaneous operations were conducted in six provinces including Istanbul, Van, Kilis, Adana, Gaziantep and Kayseri.

One person was detained in Kilis during the rain on İHH while a total of five people were detained in southern provinces of Adana and Gaziantep yesterday.

Police have detained 18 people in the southeastern province of Van and another suspect was detained in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri as part of operations into al-Qaeda.

Three people have been detained by anti-terror police in Bağcılar, Fatih and Küçükçekmece districts in the Istanbul leg of the operation. The suspects were sent to Van, according to the reports.

Anti-terror police coming from the eastern province of Van searched the main office of the İHH and its depot and one person from the relief organization was detained, Doğan news agency reported.

Two anti-terror unit heads dismissed

Only a few hours after the raids, two anti-terror police unit chiefs who were among the teams who planned and carried out the operation have been dismissed.

Both Kilis province anti-terror department chief Devlet Çıngı and Van province anti-terror department chief Serdar Bayraktutan were relocated by a sudden decision from the respective Governor’s Office with which they are affiliated. 

The Interior Ministry had previously responded raids conducted as part of graft investigation by orchestrating a massive purge within the police department.  

İHH condemns raids

The İHH released an official press statement Jan. 14 concerning the raid, with General Secretary Yaşar Kutluay saying the operation was aimed at preventing the İHH from sending humanitarian aid to Syria.

“They are trying to show the İHH as if it is related to terror organizations,” Kutluay said, claiming that the operation was an “attack” on the NGO, which is said to be the biggest organization in Turkey sending aid to Syria.

One of the İHH’s lawyers, Uğur Yıldırım, said the Justice Ministry ordered two prosecutors to launch an investigation into the police officers who conducted the search.

However, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has refuted the claim, saying the ministry has no authority or duty to send prosecutors to any place.

Yıldırım added that the raid was a part of an operation first launched in 2012 within the terms of the anti-terror law, targeting only one man who had been working at İHH for nine months.

A search warrant was issued for that individual and the court had been given the Kilis İHH office as his home address, Yıldırım claimed, adding that the man actually had a home address where he lived with his family.

All computers at the office were seized by police, Yıldırım added.

İHH Syria coordinator Serkan Öktem, however, said the police returned the computers it seized from the branch after examining them in the police department.

The press coordinator of the NGO, Serkan Nergis, also commented on the raid via his Twitter account, saying that police forces had been conducting a search that was against the law.

“Police units started to search the office after taking our personnel out without waiting for our lawyers to arrive,” Nergis said.

The İHH, an NGO which bases its humanitarian relief action on Islamic principles, was the operator of the Mavi Marmara and one of the main organizers of the Gaza Flotilla in May 2010.