January 8, 2016

Intel agency tries to mislead court by withholding reports on Tahşiyeciler

Lawyers representing dozens of suspects, including media members who face charges of membership in a terrorist organization for allegedly conspiring against an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, have stated there were attempts by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to withhold information and derail the defense's case.

Lawyer Murat Akkoç stated that he was surprised that the MİT did not submit documents, asked for by the court, proving that it had been monitoring the radical group Tahşiyeciler and its leader Mehmet Doğan for years. He said lawyers in the case had already obtained MİT documents from six years ago which identified the group as a radical organization.

Akkoç noted that the MİT did not produce original documents but instead sent a short statement to the court portraying Tahşiyeciler as a harmless group that would not be involved in violent attacks. He said the new statement conflicted with the six-page detailed analysis written by MİT in the past.

The cover-up attempt by MİT to mislead the court was exposed when the General Staff submitted the copy of MİT's original report to the court, a confidential document that MİT said it could not find in its files. The General Staff said that MİT sent the report on Tahşiyeciler on March 5, 2009, describing the radical group as fully supportive of al-Qaeda and its dead leader Osama bin Laden.

The report identified Mehmet Nuri Turan, a leading member of Tahşiyeciler, as a left-leaning militant that was intimately involved with drug traffickers and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists. In a bizarre twist, an email complaint sent to the İstanbul Police Department on May 16, 2014 by Turan triggered an investigation against Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, affiliated journalists and police investigators.

The whole case against Gülen and others was built on the complaint that Gülen had criticized Tahşiyeciler. Soon after Gülen criticized Tahşiyeciler and warned against using violence in a speech posted on his website Herkul.org on April 6, 2009, media groups published excerpts from Gülen's speeches and police subsequently launched an investigation into the Tahşiyeciler, the complaint alleged.

In the original probe into Tahşiyeciler, a Jan. 22, 2010 operation saw police raid the homes and offices of 112 people across Turkey with suspected links to Tahşiyeciler. During the raids, three hand grenades, one smoke bomb, seven handguns, 18 hunting rifles, electronic parts for explosives, knives and a large cache of ammunition were discovered.

After the defamation complaint against Gülen in the aforementioned email sent by a suspected member of Tahşiyeciler in March 2014, a prosecutor launched the investigation that led to the detention of journalists and police investigators.

In an operation on Dec. 14, 2014, former Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Samanyolu TV General Manager Hidayet Karaca and a number of soap opera scriptwriters as well as police officers were detained on charges of terrorism and membership in an organization that conspired against Tahşiyeciler, based on a speech made by Gülen in 2009, in which the scholar warned against a group that "might" be called Tahşiyeciler and whose leader (Doğan) had publicly praised bin Laden.

The prosecutor alleges that Tahşiyeciler were framed by police, journalists and Gülen to portray the group as an armed terror group and defamed the radical group.

The documents that were uncovered revealed that MİT, police and military intelligence branches had been monitoring Tahşiyeciler long before Gülen criticized the group in 2009. For example, the document, classified as confidential and dated Dec. 3, 2008, described the group as having some 5,000 members and identified Mehmet Doğan, also known as mullah Muhammed, as the group leader.

MİT sent the police further intelligence about the group on Feb. 17, March 17 and March 30, 2009. The Counterterrorism Department of the İstanbul Police Department forwarded the case file, with all information collected about the group, to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor then ordered the judicial investigation into Tahşiyeciler that led to the raids on safe houses used by the group on Jan. 22, 2010.

Not only MİT, but the General Staff's intelligence bureau had also been monitoring Tahşiyeciler long before Gülen's speech, warning the military about the group's activities in March 2009.

In the case file on the Tahşiyeciler -- classified as secret by the intelligence unit of the General Staff -- sent to the office of the Land Forces commander by General Staff Intelligence head Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin, on March 13, 2009, the Tahşiyeciler were described as an al-Qaeda-linked group. The intelligence documents said the group's leader, Mehmet Doğan, sought to implement al-Qaeda's ideology, telling his followers to join former Taliban leader Osama bin Laden's army in Afghanistan and assassinate the country's political and religious leaders.

The file said Doğan saw bin Laden as a military commander for the Mahdi, the prophesied redeemer of Islam that the entire Muslim world is waiting for, and saw al-Qaeda as the army of the Mahdi.

Indeed, footage seized during an operation against al-Qaeda on Jan. 22, 2010, was aired on the CNN Türk network, and in it Doğan can be heard saying that the head of the Turkish government and the head of the religious authority are foreigners and should be killed in an armed attack.

“I'm saying, go and build arms and kill [them]," he said in the video. "If the sword is not used, then this is not Islam."

In a separate video aired on the Habertürk TV channel, Doğan says: “If an army [al-Qaeda] shows up in Afghanistan and that army calls on you [to join its ranks], you should join that war [jihad], even if you can only crawl.”

In a speech given on June 29, 2004, when a follower asked whether group members would decapitate Americans, Doğan replied, “That will come later.” In the same speech, he described Muslim professors of theology in Turkey as being worse than infidels. In another speech on Aug. 13, 2005, Doğan was asked whether Islam is a religion of peace that sanctions the use of force only for defensive purposes, to which he responded: “F*** that. These [beliefs] are made up by Jews. That is the Pope's belief.”

Doğan also wrote a book entitled “Cihadname” (The Book of Jihad), in which he emphasized the global jihad theory of al-Qaeda: “It is a religious duty to fight against non-believers … A jihad against Jews and Christians is a better deed than a jihad against non-believers.”

Doğan also said in December 2014 on a live TV program on CNN Türk that he "loves Osama bin Laden." In another video that was extensively broadcasted on Turkish TV stations, Doğan is heard praising both Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

According to the recordings in the original probe against Tahşiyeciler, Mehmet Nuri Ataç, who was a suspect in the Tahşiyeciler trial, is heard saying: “I want to be a suicide bomber. I will carry out an attack against factious people.” Ataç is also heard saying he wants to fight for al-Qaeda and that being a suicide bomber is his destiny. Another suspect, identified as Faris Mağin, was recorded saying, “Jihad means placing your finger on the trigger of an automatic rifle.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 8 January 2016, Friday