An academic and medical doctor who was found to be involved in a Turkish al-Qaeda cell was named for an award by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and accepted it in person from then-Chief of General Staff and current Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Hakan Parlakpınar, chief doctor at the state-run Turgut Özal Medical Center, part of Inonu University in the southeastern province of Malatya, was detained on January 22, 2010 on charges of membership in a Turkish al-Qaeda group called Tahşiyeciler. The detention warrant was issued after the investigators found he was attending a study circle in a madrasa run by the group in the Dabakhane neighborhood of Malatya and raising funds for the group’s operations.
Despite the fact that investigators gathered evidence such as wiretaps and computer records that incriminated him, on December 14, 2015 President Erdoğan hosted him in his lavish palace in the capital and recognized him with an award in a ceremony held on behalf of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). The prize was personally bestowed by Akar, who was chief of general staff at the time.
As part of the counterterrorism investigation, the police secured a wiretap authorization from a judge and wiretapped Parlakpınar’s phone to map his network. In a wiretap dated September 18, 2009, he was speaking with another al-Qaeda suspect about raising funds and securing finances from others to cover the cost of operations in the province. During an interrogation on January 23 at the police station, investigators asked what the money was for, where it was kept and whether he had authorization to raise such funds. Parlakpınar acknowledged that it was him on the phone but said he did not remember the conversation.
Hakan Parlakpınar’s police statement and transcripts of wiretap records that show he had been raising funds for an al-Qaeda-affiliated group:Hakan_Parlakpinar_statement_police
In a wiretap recorded a month later, on October 19, 2009, Parlakpınar was talking with other suspects about moving more funds. On the same day, in a second phone call he was speaking to a suspect named Yusuf Selami Çakaroğlu, Mullah Muhammed’s representative in Malatya province, about as much as $137,000 that went missing during transfers. The police asked where the funds were delivered and the reason for raising the funds. Parlakpınar again said he did not remember.
In a wiretap dated October 8, 2009 he was heard taking about arranging a place for a gathering of suspects. Parlakpınar was apparently concerned about surveillance. In a wiretap recorded on December 4, 2009 he was telling Ahmet Bereket, also suspect in the al-Qaeda case, to not let people out of the home where they had gathered because he suspected the police were keeping tabs on them. He asked Bereket to wait for a while and later take the people out from the back of the house.
During questioning while in police custody, Parlakpınar admitted that he frequented the Tahşiyeciler madrasa but claimed he did not know anybody and could not recognize any of those who attended meetings there. When asked whether he knew Mullah Muhammed, he said he did not. Yet an examination of his computer seized during the execution of a search warrant revealed that private sermons delivered by Mullah Muhammed were stored on the computer’s hard drive.
Hakan Parlakpınar’s statement to the prosecutor that contradicted earlier statements given to the police:Hakan_Parlakpinar_statement_prosecutor
In a statement given to the prosecutor’s office on January 24, 2010 Parlakpınar changed his police statement and acknowledged knowing the other suspects. He also admitted that he once met al-Qaeda leader Mullah Muhammed in Muş province and knew him as a retired imam. He claimed he had no idea Mullah Muhammed had advocated violent jihad and said he would never have been part of such an organization if he had known.
An expert report issued on February 8, 2010 for his computer revealed that Dr. Parlakpınar kept an archive of dozens of CDs and DVDs about Osama bin Laden’s global call for armed jihad, various al-Qaeda videos on armed training and Mullah Muhammed’s sermons describing al-Qaeda attacks as jihadist activity, not terrorism. Another expert report on February 4, 2010 reviewed the Maxtor brand hard drive from his computer, which stored dozens of word documents on religious literature, voice recordings of sermons delivered by Mullah Muhammed and his deputy Çakaroğlu. Some of the documents predicted that al-Qaeda would prevail in its struggle.
When police detained Tahşiyeciler leader Mullah Muhammed and his associates including Parlakpınar in January 2010, the police discovered three hand grenades, one smoke bomb, seven handguns, 18 hunting rifles, electronic parts for explosives, knives and a large cache of ammunition in the homes of the suspects.
The investigation revealed how Mullah Muhammed had asked his followers to build bombs and mortars in their homes, urged the decapitation of Americans, claiming that the religion allowed such practices. “I’m telling you to take up your guns and kill them,” he said in recorded sermons, adding, “If the sword is not used, then this is not Islam.” According to Doğan, all Muslims were obligated to respond to then-al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s armed fight.
Hakan Parlakpınar’s computer records showed he stored jihadist videos including Osama bin Ladin’s recordings on his computer:Hakan_Parlakpinar_computer_report
Although Mullah Muhammed and his associates were indicted and tried, Erdoğan started defending the group in 2014, vouching for the radical imam. The campaign to save the indicted Mullah Muhammed was first launched by the Sabah daily, owned by Erdoğan’s family, on March 13, 2014. An article tried to portray Mullah Muhammed as a victim. The government claimed that Mullah Muhammed was framed by the Gülen movement, a group that is highly critical of Erdoğan on a range of issues from corruption to Turkey’s arming of jihadist groups in Syria and Libya.
In the end, Erdoğan helped secure Mullah Muhammed and his associates’ acquittal through his loyalist judges and prosecutors, launched a crackdown on journalists who criticized his radical group and even hired a lawyer to file a civil suit in the US against Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been an outspoken critic of radical and jihadist groups, for defaming this fanatic. The Bakirköy 3rd High Criminal Court acquitted all suspects including Mullah Muhammed and Çakaroğlu of al-Qaeda charges on December 15, 2015. In a contradiction of past records, the Security General Directorate (Emniyet) also issued a new report whitewashing the activities of the group.