A secret Turkish intelligence document obtained by Nordic Monitor has revealed how the pro-Iranian government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hunted down investigators, prosecutors and judges who were involved in probing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force operatives and assets in Turkey.
The document, dated March 2, 2017 and signed by Mustafa Uluhan Baysal, deputy intelligence director at Turkey’s Security General Directorate (Eminiyet), shows the government wanted to identify every member of security and judicial staff who was involved in investigating the Quds Force between January 1, 2007 and December 21, 2013. The secret documents, 245 pages in total, presented all the court documents and judges’ decisions on wiretapping and surveillance requests as if they were criminal activity.
Many investigators in the police department and members of the judiciary had already been jailed for running a confidential investigation into the Quds Force under a case file named “Selam Tevhid Kudus Ordusu,” which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey. The investigation exposed Erdoğan’s secret ties to IRGC generals and uncovered how the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), run by pro-Iranian figure Hakan Fidan, worked with the Iranian regime. The Istanbul prosecutors’ investigation file No.2011/762, which was started in 2010, was hushed up by Erdoğan in January 2014.
Two-page secret intelligence cover letter that explains the list of suspects who were investigated and wiretapped for their alleged role in the IRGC Quds Force investigation:IRGC1
Lead prosecutor Adnan Çimen was removed from the case on February 25, 2014. He was later dismissed for exposing Quds Force elements nested in the Turkish government. Çimen was detained on February 18, 2017, formally arrested and jailed for investigating the IRGC network. His predecessor, Adem Özcan, who was involved in the IRGC probe, was also dismissed and later jailed on dubious charges. Both prosecutors made statements defending the investigation, saying that IRGC Quds Force operatives were financing and arming the deadly Selam Tevhid group in Turkey when Erdoğan government officials tried to downplay the threat.
Moreover, the intelligence document lists all Iranian and Turkish nationals who were identified as Quds Force operatives and associates in Turkey in years-long probes and were portrayed as if they were victims. Some of the people on the list had served time in Turkish prisons in the past on Iran-linked terrorism charges and were reactivated by the Quds Force after they were released by an amnesty bill endorsed by the Erdoğan government. Some of the operatives were found to be involved in the surveillance of the US and Israeli embassies and consulates in Turkey, collected information about NATO military installations and received military training in Iran.
The intelligence documents were sent to Irfan Fidan, a notorious prosecutor who was tasked with going after government critics. He drafted dozens of politically motivated indictments with no solid evidence in order to punish Erdoğan opponents and critics as well as dissidents.
The documents also point out how the approach of the Turkish government has changed dramatically in recent years, with Erdoğan building a pro-Iran judiciary and security apparatus. The change goes against established practice and case law in Turkey, where the criminal justice system including the nation’s top criminal court, the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargitay), has consistently upheld verdicts to that effect, listing the IRGC’s Turkish offspring as a terrorist organization following successful prosecutions, trials and convictions of its members.
Now all those past cases are treated as bogus while Erdoğan is bent on punishing everybody who was involved in investigating the IRGC Quds Force under the laws and regulations that were effect at the time. I have examined this investigation file and am amazed at how clandestine Iranian activities in Turkish territory were expanded under the Erdoğan government. The investigators did an impressive job in mapping out the Quds Force network and were ready to deal a serious blow to their operations until Erdoğan stepped in and sacked the lead prosecutors and police investigators in the case.
The hushed-up case indicated that Israeli and US intelligence agencies alerted their Turkish counterparts over the years about possible attacks on Western and Israeli interests, and Jews and synagogues in Turkish territory, confirming that the threat by the IRGC was real and clear.
For example, on Jan. 3, 2013, Turkish police dispatched a secret communication to all police departments in 81 provinces with a “very urgent” note, alerting about possible attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets. The intelligence that was provided by Mossad indicated that Iranian national Ali Khodadadi, who was involved in a foiled car bomb attack on February 13, 2012 that targeted the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi, made trips to Turkey and acquired explosives there. The intel warned that the Quds Force might try to stage an attack in Turkey and that a woman identified as Leila Shatirashvili, a Georgian national linked to Khodadadi, was believed to be in Turkey. The intel provided mobile phone numbers that were used by Leila and others in Turkey.
Likewise, in another piece of intelligence provided by Israel on April 9, 2013, an Afghan national called Mir Agha was identified as a migrant smuggler who was tapped by the Quds Force to transport an operative across the Turkish-Greek border to stage an attack in Europe as part of clandestine operations planned by Iran. Police quickly identified the man as Mir Agha Karimi Sayed Karim (DOB Jan. 11, 1983) from the intel provided by Mossad. Iranian national Mohsen Bkhitari, resident in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu district, was also found to be involved with Agha. When the probe was expanded, police intelligence discovered eight Turkish and two Afghan nationals in the smuggling network within a week, putting them under close surveillance.
The intelligence about the Quds Force’s active network in Turkey has not only come from Israel. Both the US and Arab nations’ intelligence services provided similar information to the Turkish side, asking for a further investigation on the tips they received. For example, MIT relayed information it received from a foreign agency on May 31, 2012 to Turkish police, seeking an investigation into a Quds Force-sanctioned attack against Saudi Arabian interests in Turkey. The intel included the names of three Lebanese nationals (Baqira Maliki, Sajad Gaemi Hastand and General Salehi) who would make a trip to Turkey on Kuwaiti passports, and one Iranian national named Mojtaba Mohammadi, who was leading the strike team.
A Turkish police intelligence document dated April 5, 2012 stated that the US had provided information that the Quds Force was plotting an attack and that Iranian nationals Daryoush Alampourshirazi and Abbas Rezaee had entered Turkey on Jan. 3, 2012. Turkish police tracked their whereabouts and cooperated with the US in foiling the plots. Likewise, on July 26, 2013, the Turkish Foreign Ministry received an intel note from the Saudi Arabian Embassy disclosing a possible attack on Saudi targets in Turkey by an armed Shiite group and requesting the beefing up of security around Saudi diplomatic missions in Turkey.
In April 2014, the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court sentencing eight defendants who were convicted of killing Turkish journalists and academics Uğur Mumcu, Bahriye Üçok, Muammer Aksoy and Ahmet Taner Kışlalı and being members of the terrorist Tawhid-Salam organization to imprisonment in the Umut case where the IRGC network faced a serious crackdown in Turkey. The ruling emphasized that the Supreme Court of Appeals had defined Tawhid-Salam as an armed terrorist organization in a previous verdict and affirmed that members of the organization received military and political training in Iran prior to being sent to Turkey to commit terrorist attacks on key locations and figures.
According to an Ankara court ruling in 2002, Tawhid-Salam was found to be responsible for the assassination of a number of journalists and academics in the 1990s, including Mumcu, Üçok, Kışlalı and several others. In its verdict the court sentenced three suspects to 12 years, six months’ imprisonment, while five suspects were sentenced to six years, three months. The defendants were charged with establishing and conducting the illegal Tawhid-Salam terrorist organization as well as the Iranian-based Quds Force terrorist organization.
The organization is also known for killing American, Saudi and Israeli diplomats as well as Iranian dissidents who sought refuge in Turkey. The Iranian intelligence-backed organization is also accused of staging a bomb attack that targeted the Israeli Consulate General in İstanbul’s Etiler district in 2011 in which then-38-year-old Ayten Bal lost her leg and seven others were injured. Initial investigations suggested the bombing was an act of terrorism committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) due to the proximity of the blast to a police school building, but further investigation made clear that Tawhid-Salam had carried out the attack.
The attack was not the first. In 1996, Tawhid-Salam member Abdülhamit Çelik was convicted of killing two opponents of the Iran regime in Turkey and sentenced to 12 years, six months in prison, though he was released in 2004 following an amnesty agreement. More recent investigations have revealed that members of Tawhid-Salam, including high-ranking figures in Turkey, have been working on behalf of Iranian interests for a long time and that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Sayed Ali Akber Mir Vakili is leading the terrorist group.
As a result of police surveillance of Tawhid-Salam member Abdülhamit Çelik, Hakkı Selçuk Şanlı was identified as one of the founders of Tawhid-Salam. Çelik admitted in testimony given in May 2000 as part of the Tawhid-Salam probe that he had been trained in Iran to stage attacks in Turkey and conduct intelligence operations on behalf of Iran for over two months. During his testimony Çelik, who is also the owner of the Sena dental firm, acknowledged that the Iranian-based Quds Force obtained bombs from Çelik and staged attacks in Georgia and Thailand. A storage unit in İstanbul was rented by an Iranian with the Quds Force, Rızazade Metin, using a false identity.
Further investigation by police revealed street camera recordings, and they traced a bomb-laden bike to a storage place in the Fatih district. The leaked document also revealed that Tawhid-Salam conducted intelligence activities in Turkey by profiling high-ranking Turkish officials and deputies as well as obtaining information on key military units and delivering it to Iran’s intelligence organization. Hüseyin Avni Yazıcıoğlu, the director of Sincan Municipality’s education and culture department in the late 1990s, was involved in profiling activities aiding and abetting the Salam group via a contact, Naser Ghafari, at the Iranian Embassy.
Aziz Babuşçu, former head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İstanbul branch and several other several AKP members were also on the list of profiled political figures. The investigation also discovered the terrorist group carried out reconnaissance on the US Consulate General in İstanbul in 2010, seemingly in preparation for an attack on the building. The investigation file found that Iranian agent Yazıcıoğlu and his accomplices and contacts had produced a detailed surveillance report that indicated empty shops and flats that could be rented to monitor the US diplomatic mission. The various rental prices of the flats overlooking the entrances to the US Consulate General building were also listed. During the reconnaissance activity Selçuk Çetin and Engin Bilgin, both of whom were allegedly working for the Yazıcıoğlu cell, used rented and municipal vehicles to scout the neighborhood.
In the next phase of the investigation into the Tawhid-Salam network, police verified that the suspects’ cell phone activity had been recorded on October 5-6, 2010, in the neighborhood of the US Consulate General. As part of their surveillance activity around the consulate, members of the cell suggested using a mosque minaret near the building as well as renting a flat for TL 800 a month from which one of them would be able to spy on the building. Kamile Yazıcıoğlu, a woman who had fled from her abusive husband and a member of the cell, said in her testimony that Hüseyin Avni Yazıcıoğlu, his son and other members had surveillance maps of the Nuclear Research Institute in İstanbul’s Halkalı neighborhood as well as delivering these details to Iranian intelligence.
Here is the list of 255 Turkish and Iranian nationals who were investigated as part of the IRGC Quds Force probe in Turkey. It shows multiple entries for all suspects who were the subjects of wiretap authorizations from various courts on different dates. The case was hushed up by the Erdoğan government, and some of the suspects fled Turkey. Those who remained were treated as victims, and prosecutors who were brought on board by Erdoğan deposed them as plaintiffs in a witch-hunt to punish all who were involved in the Quds Force investigation. The list also includes eight organizations that were subjects of the probe. (Use arrows to move pages. The file is large and may take some time to download.)IRGC_QodsForce_Operatives