A senior Turkish police chief and his counterterrorism team were imprisoned for taking security measures to protect Jews and Israeli diplomats in Turkey and initiating probes into an Iranian terror plot that was reported by Israel’s Mossad.
Oktay Bulduk, deputy police chief in Istanbul’s Provincial Security Directorate, issued a circular on March 2, 2012 on a possible terror plot, alerting all police branches to boost measures to protect the staff at the Israeli Consulate General and prominent Jewish figures in the city. The alert was issued after Turkish intelligence received credible intel from Israel’s Mossad warning that Iran’s Quds Force was plotting terrorist attacks similar to incidents that took place in Thailand, Georgia and India.
Mossad’s intel stated that militants numbering between two and four and working for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force had entered Turkey on January 3, 2012 and that they were possibly planning to attack Israeli diplomats in the embassy in Ankara or the consulate general in Istanbul. The Turkish police made an assessment that the targets in Istanbul were more likely than those in Ankara since the embassy is located in a more secure district with other diplomatic compounds.
In the meantime, Israeli consulate officials also warned Jewish community leaders in Istanbul that the attack could very well target community members as well. Israeli diplomats were so concerned that they invited Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, the acting president of the Jewish Community of Turkey, to brief him at 3 in the morning on March 1 about the possible attack. Sami Herman, president of the Turkish Jewish Community, reached out to Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu during the day to discuss the matter.
Secret document shows Mossad’s intelligence about a possible terror attack in Turkey led the police chief to order extra security measures to protect Jews and Israelis:Mossad_intelligence_IRGC_Quds_Force
The police developed a risk analysis which showed that in addition to Ibrahimzadeh and Herman, other prominent Jews such as Bensiyon Pinto, former president of the Turkish-Jewish Community; Ishak Haleva, the chief rabbi in Turkey; businessman Ishak Alaton; Silvyo Ovadya, former president of the Turkish-Jewish Community; Ivo Molinas, editor-in-chief of Jewish weekly magazine Şalom; and others might be targeted as well.
Police chief Bulduk ordered a review of security and protection measures to keep Jewish leaders and Israeli diplomats safe, asked the police units to be vigilant and take preventive measures to thwart any unfortunate incident. The document bears the signatures of counterterrorism unit head Ömer Köse, his deputy Osman Özgür Açıkgöz, team leader Gafur Ataç and his deputy Oğuzhan Mutlu.
It turned out that the counterterrorism unit in Istanbul had already been conducting a separate and secret investigation into Quds Force activities under orders from the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office since 2010. The police investigators even identified a key operative, Hüseyin Avni Yazıcıoğlu, a convicted felon who was working for the Quds Force, and they obtained crucial evidence in October 2011 from him that showed Quds Force militants had studied satellite maps for the location of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.
A flash drive obtained from a convicted terrorist revealed that the IRGC Quds Force studied satellite maps for the location of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul:Surveillance_Israeli_consulate_Istanbul
In addition, investigators also found in Yazıcıoğlu’s possession a sales receipt from a bakery across the street from the Israeli consulate. The receipt, dated January 20, 2011, showed that he went to the bakery to scout out the area and kept the receipt to claim reimbursement from his Quds Force handler. The police checked his mobile phone signals for the date shown on the receipt and confirmed that his phone received signals from a cell tower in the same neighborhood.
Document from police investigation file shows that Quds Force operative visited a bakery across from the Israeli consulate in order to scout the area. Both the sales receipt and cell phone signals put him at the scene:surveillance_israeli_consulate
The investigation listed a number of Iranian and Turkish nationals, some operating under the diplomatic cover, as suspects. Some had already been convicted for their ties to the Quds Force, served time and were later released in an amnesty facilitated by the government of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2004.
The counterterrorism team included Mossad’s intel in the case file as well, hoping that it would shed further light on the network and sleeper cells. The police expanded the surveillance and monitoring of the suspects with a view to flagging a possible terrorist attack and thwarting it.
In February 2014 the Istanbul prosecutor was about to wrap up the probe and indict the suspects in what was described by law enforcement officials as the most comprehensive espionage investigation in Turkey’s history. Some 200 operatives were identified including Quds Force generals who were in Turkey to run clandestine operations and support terror networks. However, the Erdoğan government was informed about the probe pursued by the judicial branch and unlawfully stepped in to quash the investigation into the Quds Force.
Police chief Bulduk and members of the counterterrorism unit in Istanbul were all sacked by the government and were later imprisoned on fabricated charges for running a probe into what the government claimed was a hoax terror organization. In other words, the government took a major step to delist the Quds Force Turkish network, already designated as a terrorist organization under the name of Tevhid Selam by the Supreme Court of Appeals, and allow its members to go free.
At his arraignment on April 15, 2016, Bulduk defended himself by saying that the government had presented 14 documents including the one passed by Mossad for which he signed as part of his duties as deputy police chief as if they were evidence of a criminal offense. He said he had to issue orders for extra security measures to protect people and institutions in Turkey in the face of credible intelligence obtained by Turkey or passed through other countries. He was released pending trial but quickly rearrested and jailed under pressure from the executive branch.
The Quds Force investigation, which was expanded to encompass government officials, including two chief aides of President Erdoğan, was branded as a hoax by Erdoğan and his cabinet members. The government presented Mossad’s intelligence passed to Turkey through standard operating channels as part of the cooperation between the two countries as evidence that the Quds Force investigation was launched at the request of Israel, which was not the case.
Police chief Oktay Bulduk’s testimony in court reveals how the government jailed officials who took measures to protect Jews and Israeli diplomats in Turkey:Oktay_Bulduk_testimony
The investigation in Istanbul was in fact launched in 2010 when Kamile Yazıcıoğlu, the wife of top Quds Force operative Yazıcıoğlu, blew the whistle on her husband and exposed his secret work with Iranian handlers. He had already been convicted in a 2000 terrorism case that involved Iranian Quds Force elements and served time before he was released under an Erdoğan government amnesty. He was reactivated by his Iranian handlers and directed to gather intelligence on US and Israeli targets in Turkey, according to the documentary evidence in the case file.
Many of the police chiefs and prosecutors who were part of the Quds Force investigation still remain in jail. In some cases, the spouses of the officials were also jailed by the Erdoğan government to send a message to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary that Iran’s operatives in Turkey can act with impunity.
Scandalous paragraph from the Turkish prosecutor’s indictment that repeated the government narrative on Mossad’s alleged links to critics as part of a deliberate campaign to undermine the opposition and stifle dissent in Turkey:Turkish_govt_narrative_in_indictment
President Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement, a group critical of his government, of initiating the Quds Force probe as part of his usual scapegoating tactics in order to deflect public attention from the overwhelming body of incriminating evidence collected in the Quds Force probe. New prosecutors brought to the offices in Istanbul and Ankara also used the government narrative in their indictments filed against investigators who probed Quds Force operatives.
Serdar Coşkun, a Turkish prosecutor in Ankara, falsely claimed in his indictment that “Fethullah Gülen’s organization carried out actions under US control and with the support of the CIA, targeting the state and political authority according to the information and objectives provided by MOSSAD.” Coşkun’s allegations were repeated in verbatim in multiple indictments filed across Turkey against government critics, opponents and dissidents who were alleged to be affiliated with the Gülen movement.