The Turkish prosecutor who indicted an American pastor on dubious terrorism and espionage charges had also investigated the police for wiretapping an al-Qaeda suspect in 2011, a document obtained by Nordic Monitor has revealed.
Berkant Karakaya, a prosecutor who had worked in the counterterrorism department of the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office until September 2018, secretly ordered a probe in 2016 into all police investigators who monitored a man named Hakkı Bakış, an al-Qaeda suspect.
According to the paper trail, the police intelligence unit in Turkey’s central province of Konya filed a warrant request with the Adana 8th High Criminal Court, asking the court to authorize a warrant to wiretap the suspect’s phone. In judgement No. 2011/772 on June 8, 2011 the court granted the authorization that allowed the police to wiretap Bakış’s phone.
The reason cited for the request was that a preliminary intelligence assessment was made indicating that the suspect was operating in line with al-Qaeda ideology and had been in touch with other al-Qaeda militants around Turkey and that a wiretap was needed to decode his network and his activities.
Bakış’s name also came up during an investigation into a human smuggling network that was the subject of another criminal investigation in Turkey’s western province of Izmir between 2010 and 2012.
However, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which had aided and abetted al-Qaeda groups in Turkey and other countries, hushed up all al-Qaeda investigations in January 2014 and suspended all wiretaps that monitored armed jihadist networks including al-Qaeda in Turkey.
The Erdoğan government purged many veteran members of the judiciary and police force, the main law enforcement agency in Turkey, who had been investigating al-Qaeda and other jihadist networks. The purge started in December 2013 and accelerated in the aftermath of a 2016 failed coup bid.
At the government’s request the Interior Ministry’s chief inspector, M. Uğur Kılıç, and chief police inspector Halil Tülüoğlu issued a report on May 31, 2016 with the conclusion that there was no need to wiretap al-Qaeda suspect Bakış. The report did not explain why the government inspectors came to such a conclusion or on what basis they made a decision that challenged the court’s wiretap authorization.
Based on this problematic finding, prosecutor Karakaya wrote to the Konya Police Department asking it to identify all personnel who were involved in the paperwork that led to the surveillance of the al-Qaeda suspect. He also ordered the police to ascertain if any communications had taken place within the Konya Public Prosecutor’s Office concerning the investigators who had looked into the al-Qaeda network. The postscript shows that the prosecutor also obtained a confidentiality order from a criminal court of peace on April 18, 2016 restricting access to the investigation case file. The prosecutor’s order was also communicated the next day to the Konya police by Izmir Deputy Chief of Police İsmail Akıntürk, who also informed national police headquarters in Ankara about the order.
Karakaya is notorious for going after critics of the Erdoğan government and is known for filing politically motivated indictments that aim to punish Erdoğan’s opponents. He also filed an indictment against American pastor Andrew Brunson, who had spent two years, three months in jail and house arrest until October 12, 2018. He was convicted based on dubious evidence and sentenced to more than three years in prison on terrorism and spying charges but was released due to time already served.