Category: Anatolia Section


August 10, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities have detained a Russian national and suspected Islamic State group militant for allegedly planning a drone attack on U.S. aircraft at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, police said Thursday.

Renad Bakiev was detained in the southern city of Adana over suspicions that he plotted to crash an American aircraft or attack the Incirlik air base using a drone, Adana police said in a statement. Turkish private news agency Dogan said a court later ordered him formally arrested pending a trial.

Bakiev also intended to attack the local Alevi community in Adana city, the statement said. It said he was affiliated with IS and had previously traveled to Syria. The Alevi religious minority is an offshoot of Shia Islam and is the largest religious group in Turkey after Sunnis. IS regards Alevis as heretics.

Bakiev appealed for 2,800 Turkish Lira (nearly $800) from other militants on the Telegram messaging application, which IS sympathizers use widely, to buy a drone, police said. The private Dogan news agency said during his questioning that he allegedly defended the need to kill Alevis and considered them “enemies of Allah,” the statement said.

During police interrogations, Bakiev admitted to reconnoitering the air base for his strike, the police statement said. A previous attempt he made to attack Americans was unsuccessful. Bakiev’s plans came to light in testimony from suspected IS members detained in a counterterror raid in June, according to Dogan news agency. That operation captured the alleged commander of an Adana-based IS cell, 32-year old Abdulkerim Cakar, and 10 others.

The U.S. Air Force has used Incirlik air base, near Adana, as a staging post for the air campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq since 2015. IS militants have used armed drones to deadly effect in Iraq and Syria, converting commercial drones to carry small explosives.

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed.

August 01, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Nearly 500 suspects, including generals and military pilots, went on trial Tuesday in Turkey accused of leading last year’s failed coup attempt and carrying out attacks from an air base in Ankara.

The U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government blames for the coup, has been named as the main defendant in the case and will be tried in absentia. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk and other defendants stationed at the Akinci air base, on the outskirts of the capital Ankara, are accused of directing the coup and bombing key government buildings, including the parliament.

Many of the 486 suspects face life terms in prison for crimes that include violating the Constitution, murder, attempting to assassinate the president and attempting to overthrow the government. The trial is one of dozens underway in Turkey in relation to the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that resulted in 249 deaths. Some 30 coup-plotters were also killed. The government says the coup was carried out by followers of Gulen’s movement.

The government says the coup-plotters used Akinci air base as their headquarters. Turkey’s military chief Gen. Hulusi Akar and other commanders were held captive for several hours at the base on the night of the coup.

On Tuesday, a group of 41 defendants were paraded from their jail to a courthouse that was built especially at a prison complex to try the coup plotters. They were handcuffed, with two paramilitary police officers on each arm, and protected by armed special force officers.

A total of 461 defendants are behind bars while 18 were freed pending the outcome of the trial. Seven others, including Gulen and an alleged top operative in his movement, are still wanted by the Turkish authorities and are being tried in absentia.

Ozturk, the former air force commander, is also on trial in a separate case, accused of being a ring-leader of the coup. The families of those killed or wounded during the coup attempt staged a protest Tuesday. Some threw ropes toward the defendants, demanding that the government reinstate the death penalty and that those convicted be hanged. Others threw stones or tried to break through police lines to reach the suspects, shouting “Murderers!”

A total of 1,300 security personnel were deployed both inside and outside the courtroom, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The government declared a state of emergency following the coup and embarked on a large-scale crackdown on Gulen’s network and other opponents, arresting more than 50,000 people and purging over 110,000 others from government jobs.

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed.

July 29, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Seven staff members of an opposition newspaper were released from a Turkish jail early Saturday pending the outcome of their trial on charges of allegedly aiding terror organizations. A court ruled for the release of Cumhuriyet newspaper’s cartoonist Musa Kart and six others Friday, but ordered four others to remain held.

The daily newspaper is staunchly opposed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is one of the few remaining outlets in Turkey critical of the government. A total of 19 defendants went on trial Monday for allegedly aiding several outlawed organizations, including Kurdish militants, a far-left group and the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the government blames for a failed coup last year.

Upon being released from prison, Kart told reporters they had been imprisoned for nine months for “unjust, lawless, baseless allegations.” He said the indictment would collapse with their release. Their families and supporters embraced them outside the prison on the outskirts of Istanbul. The terms of their release bar them from leaving Turkey.

“I thought I’d be very happy at the moment of my release,” the 63-year-old cartoonist said. “Unfortunately, four of our friends are still in Silivri prison.” Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, prominent columnist Kadri Gursel and chairman Akin Atalay remain behind bars.

The Cumhuriyet arrests are part of a wider crackdown in the aftermath of last summer’s bloody coup attempt that has led to the imprisonment of more than 50,000 people. Critics say the crackdown that initially targeted people suspected of links to the failed coup has expanded to include government opponents. Among the jailed are opposition lawmakers, activists, and more than 150 journalists.

The trial was adjourned until Sept. 11.

July 02, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police chased away a small group of transgender rights activists who attempted to march to Istanbul’s main square Sunday while carrying rainbow flags despite an official ban on the event. Seven people were detained.

The rights group Istanbul LGBTI, host of the 8th Trans Pride March, had said on social media it won’t recognize the governor’s ban. Activists gathered in Harbiye district and in a live statement on Facebook said, “We are trans, we are here, get used to it, we are not leaving.”

The organization tweeted “all roads lead to Taksim,” using the hashtag “GameOfTrans,” but police prevented them from reaching Taksim Square. A water cannon sent to the area wasn’t used on the activists.

The Istanbul governor’s office banned the march late Saturday for the second year in a row. It said “marginal groups” on social media had called for the march and it was being banned to preserve public order and to keep participants and tourists safe.

The ban also said, “very serious reactions have been raised by different segments of society,” in reference to threats by conservative and ultranationalist groups made against trans and LGBT marches. Istanbul police announced Sunday they would close multiple roads to traffic at noon as part of its security measures. Large numbers of plainclothes and riot police officers were stationed around Taksim.

The U.S. Consulate in Istanbul issued a security message Friday informing its citizens of possible “heavy police presence and counter demonstrations” and asking them to exercise caution. The message also said participation in illegal gatherings could lead to detention or arrest under a state of emergency imposed after last summer’s failed coup.

The LGBTI group’s lawyer said seven protesters were detained. Turkey doesn’t criminalize transsexuality, but its civil code requires court permission and forced sterilization for transgender men and women to undergo gender reassignment.

Rights activists say transgender individuals face rampant discrimination and hate crimes in Turkey, and want to march for visibility and acceptance. In 2016, Transgender Europe said Turkey has the highest number of trans murders in Europe. The brutal murder of 23-year-old Hande Kader caused an outcry in Istanbul and the global LGBT movement last summer.

The Turkish government says there is no discrimination against LGBT individuals and that current laws already protect each citizen. It also insists that perpetrators of hate crimes are prosecuted. Last week, the governor’s office banned a march for LGBT rights for the third year. Police set up checkpoints to prevent participants from gathering and used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse crowds. Forty-one people were detained, among them activists and counterdemonstrators.

July 02, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s official news agency says two ruling party officials serving in district organizations have been shot and killed, and ruling party officials blamed Kurdish militants. The Anadolu news agency says Orhan Mercan, a vice president of an AKP branch in the southeastern Diyarbakir province, died Saturday after being shot near his house. It says Aydin Ahi, who was serving as vice president for a party branch in the eastern province of Van, was killed late Saturday.

AKP officials decried the slayings, which they blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Minister Omer Celik tweeted Sunday that “terror is attacking our nation’s “political” institution.”

A cease-fire between Turkey and the PKK collapsed in 2015, restarting a more than three-decade-long conflict that has left an estimated 40,000 people dead.

June 30, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Qatar’s defense minister held talks with his Turkish counterpart on Friday as the Gulf nation’s feud with four other major Arab states deepens amid a sweeping list of demands to Doha, including the closure of a Turkish military base there.

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, discussed ways to resolve the dispute in a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said. Defense Ministry officials said Qatar’s Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah met with Turkey’s Fikri Isik in Ankara, but did not provide details.

Turkey is adamant to keep its base in the small Gulf Arab state and has sided with Qatar in the dispute, which saw Arab countries cut ties to Doha earlier this month, accusing it of supporting terror groups. Qatar denies the accusation.

In a sign of support, Turkey shipped supplies to Doha to help ease its isolation and swiftly ratified military agreements with Qatar, allowing the deployment of soldiers to its base. A contingent of 23 troops departed for Doha last week, joining some 90 soldiers already there.

Erdogan has rejected the four Arab nations’ demand for an end to Turkish troop presence in Doha, calling it “disrespectful” and saying that Turkey would not seek permission from others over its defense cooperation agreements.

Turkey insists its troop deployment to Qatar aims to enhance regional security and is not aimed against any specific country. The White House said Trump and Erdogan spoke about ways to overcome the crisis “while ensuring that all countries work to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology.”

“President Trump emphasized the importance of all our allies and partners increasing their efforts to fight terrorism and extremism in all its forms,” the White House statement added. Other demands presented to Qatar by the four nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — include shuttering the Al-Jazeera news network and curbing diplomatic ties to Iran.

Erdogan has said the demand for Al-Jazeera’s shutdown is an attempt to strip the network of its press freedom and urged rights groups to denounce the call. Qatar denies supporting extremism and considers the demands an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.

2017-06-28

ISTANBUL – Turkey on Wednesday marked one year since the triple suicide bombing and gun attack on its main international airport in Istanbul that left dozens dead and was blamed on Islamic State jihadists.

Late in the evening on June 28, 2016 three attackers shot randomly at passengers and staff at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport before blowing themselves up.

Forty-five people were killed, the deadliest attack on an airport in Turkey’s history.

At a ceremony just outside the arrivals hall of the airport, weeping relatives of those killed laid flowers by a black memorial where all the victims’ names are inscribed.

Some wept as they touched the inscriptions bearing the names of those they lost, an AFP photographer said. “We remember with respect, we will never forget,” read a ribbon on a memorial wreath.

The government blamed the Islamic State (IS) group — who at the time were holding swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria — although the jihadists never issued a claim for the attack.

The attack also heralded a summer of bloodshed in Turkey including the July 15 failed coup attempt to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which authorities blamed on the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. He denies the charges.

After the airport attack authorities arrested 42 suspects, with four more still on the run. Those held, who include suspects from Russia, Algeria and Turkey, are due to go on trial on November 13.

The authorities have said a large number of those linked to the attack are from ex-Soviet Central Asia or Russia’s mainly Muslim northern Caucasus region.

Two suicide bombers were identified as Vadim Osmanov and Rakhim Bulgarov, although the third was never named.

Later in the summer 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in a suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep also blamed on IS.

And on New Year’s night 39 people were killed, mainly foreigners, in a jihadist gun attack on the elite Reina nightclub in Istanbul just 75 minutes into 2017.

IS claimed that assault, the first clear claim it has ever issued for any attack in Turkey.

The Uzbek gunman who carried out the Reina attack, Abdulgadir Masharipov, was detained by the authorities after 17 days on the run and is set to go on trial along with alleged accomplices on December 11.

The capture alive of Masharipov was seen as a major success for the security forces and raised hope that his interrogation may have allowed police to garner crucial intelligence about IS cells.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83695.

June 25, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, saying their sweeping list of ultimatums has threatened the small Gulf country’s sovereignty.

Speaking after Eid prayers in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the demand “disrespectful” and said Turkey would not seek permission from others when making its defense cooperation agreements.

“Demanding that Turkey pull its soldiers is unfortunately also disrespectful toward Turkey,” he said. He said Turkey would continue to support Qatar against the many sanctions it has faced since several Arab countries moved earlier this month to isolate the country for its alleged support of terrorism.

In a sign of support, the Turkish parliament swiftly ratified a 2014 agreement with Qatar earlier this month, allowing the deployment of troops to its base there. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday.

Erdogan said he made a similar offer to Saudi Arabia to set up a base there in the past but did not hear back from the king. Doha received a 13-point list from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain that included demands to shut down the media network Al-Jazeera and cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. The energy-rich country said it was reviewing the ultimatum but added it would not negotiate under siege.

Turkey’s president said his country “admires and embraces” Qatar’s attitude, while slamming the demands by arguing they contradict international law. “Here we see an attack against a state’s sovereignty rights,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan called the demand that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera an attempt to take away the network’s press freedom and urged rights groups to speak out against that.

June 15, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s main opposition party set off on a 425-kilometer (265-mile) march Thursday from the capital to an Istanbul prison to protest the conviction of one of its lawmakers. Thousands took to the streets in Ankara, drawing criticism from the country’s president.

The leader of the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, called the “march for justice” after parliamentarian Enis Berberoglu was convicted and sentenced to 25 years for revealing state secrets.

Kilicdaroglu said the verdict was “palace-motivated,” a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Let the whole world hear, we are facing a dictatorial regime in Turkey, in our own land,” he said.

At a dinner to break the Ramadan fast in Ankara, Erdogan criticized the march, saying the protesters should not forget a constitutional article on the independence of the judiciary. “Everyone should know their place,” Erdogan said. “No one wins a thing when they, on the one hand, say they respect law and then go on the path of breaking the law … they won’t win anything with this and on the contrary, it will make them lose.”

The case of Berberoglu, a former journalist and lawmaker, stems from a 2015 story by the Cumhuriyet newspaper suggesting Turkey’s intelligence service had smuggled weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria. His lawyer has appealed the verdict.

Berberoglu was accused of giving journalists footage that showed local authorities searching Syria-bound trucks allegedly carrying mortar rounds and getting into a standoff with Turkish intelligence officials. Turkish leaders denied supporting Islamic rebels and said the trucks contained aid to Turkmens in Syria.

Can Dundar, Cumhuriyet’s then editor-in-chief who is now abroad, and the paper’s Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, are also on trial on similar charges. Separately, the three are being tried for “aiding a terror organization without being members,” a reference to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of orchestrating last year’s bloody coup attempt. Gulen has denied the claims. The prosecution believes Gulen’s network to be the source of the leaked images.

After the verdict, Kilicdaroglu tweeted: “In this country, the punishment for covering the news of a truck filled with weapons heading to terror groups is 25 years in prison but illegal arm shipments are allowed!”

Berberoglu is the first legislator from the Republican People’s Party to be imprisoned since a constitutional amendment stripped parliamentary immunities last year. A dozen pro-Kurdish lawmakers are already in prison for allegedly supporting terror and more than 50,000 people have been arrested for purported links to Gulen.

Kilicdaroglu, 68, said he would walk to Istanbul over an estimated 25 days and will be joined by party members in each province. Hundreds of people also gathered in an Istanbul park on Thursday morning.

“We want justice! We want a state of law, fair trials. We want democracy, more democracy!” said Birsen Ayisik, a 53-year-old protester.

June 14, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced a prominent opposition lawmaker to 25 years in prison on espionage charges, prompting an outcry from his party. Enis Berberoglu, a 61-year-old former journalist and a member of the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, was convicted of revealing state secrets, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said.

The case stems from a May 2015 report in the Cumhuriyet newspaper suggesting Turkey’s intelligence service had smuggled weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria a year earlier — which the government denied. Berberoglu was accused of giving journalists images used in the report.

He faced a life sentence but the court reduced it for “good behavior.” Berberoglu said justice had been “slaughtered” as he was led out of the court following the verdict. “I know you won’t forget me and I won’t forget you,” he told reporters.

His lawyer said the verdict would be appealed. Can Dundar, Cumhuriyet’s then editor-in-chief who is now abroad, and its Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, are also on trial on similar charges. Separately, the three are being tried for “aiding a terror organization without being members,” referring to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey claims orchestrated last summer’s bloody coup. Gulen has denied the claims.

CHP lawmakers left parliament to protest the verdict Wednesday. “Can there be a country with no justice, can there be a state with no justice?” party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu asked. “They are putting dynamite to the foundations of the state.”

He said he would begin a protest in Ankara on Thursday and also organize a march to the Istanbul prison where Berberoglu has been incarcerated. Earlier this year, the Istanbul court said the leaked images — also blamed on Gulen — aimed to manipulate international opinion and “have Turkey put on trial as a country supporting terror,” Anadolu said.

Cumhuriyet said the images were from 2014 and showed local authorities searching Syria-bound trucks carrying mortar rounds and getting into a standoff with Turkish intelligence officials. Turkish leaders denied supporting Islamic rebels and said the trucks contained aid to Turkmens in Syria.

Last year Berberoglu told Turkish media that Cumhuriyet’s story was accurate but would not confirm he was the source of the images. CHP leader Kilicdaroglu tweeted, “In this country, the punishment for covering the news of a truck filled with weapons heading to terror groups is 25 years in prison but illegal arm shipments are allowed!”

Berberoglu is the first CHP legislator to be imprisoned since a constitutional amendment stripped parliamentary immunities last year. A dozen pro-Kurdish lawmakers are already in prison for allegedly supporting terror and more than 50,000 people have been arrested for purported links to Gulen.

Separately, Cumhuriyet’s online editor Oguz Guven was released from prison pending trial after his arrest last month for allegedly spreading “terror propaganda” for Gulen.