Turkey’s intel agency wiretapped Iran-backed Tawhid-Salam suspects – Many suspects who were investigated by prosecutors as part of the Iran-backed terrorist organization Tawhid-Salam turned out to have been placed under surveillance by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) as well, security sources told Today’s Zaman.
According to the information, the intel agency had wiretapped phone lines belonging to 25 suspects out of the 230 who were named as suspects for belonging to the Tawhid-Salam terror network, also known as the Jerusalem Army, between April 2004 and June 2014. Many of these suspects were Iranian nationals who were monitored by MİT on suspicion of espionage.
The new revelations reflect the remarks made by prosecutor Adem Özcan, who launched an investigation into the network before he was abruptly reassigned in a government-orchestrated move. Özcan said the case file included numerous MİT reports on suspects.
Accordingly, the intel agency had over time filed petitions with 19 courts to wiretap 25 suspects on suspicion of espionage. The names of suspects were listed as (names of Turkish citizens were listed with initials, while the names of Iranian nationals were listed with their full names): A.Y., A.Y., Cafer Bendi Derya, Esmaıel Sabeghı, Habibullah Haydari, Hamid Nosrati, H.Ö., H.A., H.A.Y., H.M., K.A., K.C., K.K., K.Ö., M.D., Mehdi Saghsani Aghdam, M.E., Naser Ghafari, N.Ş., O.K.S., Rahim Bazdar, R.O., Rasoul Abdoullahı, S.Y., Sıamak Mazloumravasan.
According to a report compiled by police investigators, Tawhid-Salam has allegedly been operating through four independent cells, all of which are directed by Iranian intelligence operatives who report directly to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The first cell was led Ghafari, one of the commanders that the IRGC assigned to Turkey, who operated under the cover of a diplomatic passport attached to the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. He was directing operations on sensitive targets such as the surveillance of the US Consulate General in İstanbul and the Nuclear Research Institute in İstanbul’s Halkalı neighborhood.
The IRGC’s Quds Force Commander Sayed Ali Akbar Mir Vekili was heading another cell that engages with key officials in Turkey. He was allegedly working with Turkey’s intel head Hakan Fidan; former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Faruk Koca who worked as a liaison between Fidan and Mir Vekili; Abdülhamit Çelik who was convicted of killing two opponents of the Iranian regime in Turkey; and one of Tawhid-Salam’s founders, Hakkı Selçuk Şanlı who had been trained in Iran for over two months to stage attacks and conduct intelligence operations in Turkey on behalf of Iran.
The İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office dropped the comprehensive, three-year investigation into the Iran-backed terrorist organization in July, a move that was widely seen as an attempt to cover up a highly sensitive probe that had allegedly implicated senior officials in the ruling AK Party government.
It was alleged that the investigation discovered that Interior Minister Efkan Ala, MİT chief Fidan and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay are all connected to the Tawhid-Salam terrorist network, although the extent of their involvement is not yet clear.
On several occasions, government officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, have tried to downplay the significance of the terrorist group to contain fallout from the investigation, despite the fact that the group has been active in Turkey for more than 20 years.
Ali Fuat Yılmazer, former chief of the İstanbul Police Department’s intelligence unit, who was detained on a politically motivated sham investigation, said Tawhid-Salam had penetrated the Turkish government and was guilty of international espionage.
“If details of this case file [on the investigation into Tawhid-Salam] are revealed one day, we will see how a foreign government can operate comfortably in Turkey and how it was able to access many senior government officials,” Yılmazer said.
“They [members of Tawhid-Salam] have been able to develop relationships at the most senior level,” the former intelligence chief added. Yılmazer described the Salam network as, “the stealthiest and most dangerous terrorist organization [to face Turkey] in recent times.”
Tawhid-Salam is registered as a terrorist group by the senior judiciary in Turkey. In the Umut case in April, the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by a lower criminal court and sentenced eight defendants to imprisonment. They were convicted of killing Turkish intellectuals Uğur Mumcu, Bahriye Üçok, Muammer Aksoy and Ahmet Taner Kışlalı, and of being members of the terrorist Tawhid-Salam organization.
When the investigation was exposed by pro-government dailies earlier this year, many Iranian suspects cited in the case file reportedly fled Turkey.