A Turkish police chief wanted for arrest by US authorities on multiple criminal charges participated in clandestine operations with Turkish intelligence in Libya before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recruited him to his protective detail.
Mustafa Murat Sümercan, a police chief who was assigned as a security officer at the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli, a routine assignment in his career, had gone rogue and secretly started working with agents of the Turkish intelligence agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MIT), Nordic Monitor has learned from people who know him well.
Sümercan had no mandate or authorization from the higher ranks of the police department to work on a mission assigned by MIT in Libya; yet, he had worked for Erdoğan on a special assignment outside the chain of command and served as a local contact for MIT according to a government insider who spoke to Nordic Monitor.
“He was meeting MIT agents at the airport to pick them up, ushering them around Libya, fixing contacts and arranging meetings with businesspeople, politicians, and others,” the source said, asking that his name be withheld for security reasons. The source declined to talk in detail about the nature of business Sümercan was involved in while serving in Libya but made several references indicating that MIT was reaching out to some Islamist groups in the North Africa and the Middle East region even before the Arab revolutions started in 2011, suggesting that Erdogan had long ago put in place a plan to create proxy groups for his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Sümercan never reported what he had done for MIT to his superiors, despite the fact that regulations required him to inform the Security Directorate General (Emniyet) in Ankara about his contacts and activities while serving as an embassy security officer. When police commanders finally learned about his unauthorized work that apparently violated both Turkish law and that of the host nation, he was red-flagged and recalled.
He was supposed to be sidelined in a low-key position, but Erdoğan, prime minister at the time, stepped in to protect him and reward him for the secret work he had done. He was cleared to become part of Erdoğan’s own personal protective detail, to continue to do the dirty bidding of his boss including beating up protestors in Washington, D.C., during an official visit of the Turkish president to the US.
Another government insider interviewed by Nordic Monitor confirmed the account provided by the first source. He recalled that the police commanders were furious when they learned how Sümercan had used his diplomatic privileges and immunities as an embassy official to engage in unauthorized clandestine work for MIT in the North African nation. “He would have been demoted or dismissed from the law enforcement agency if he hadn’t been protected by Erdogan,” the second source said.
For nearly a decade, the Erdoğan government has been secretly transporting arms to Libya in support of proxy groups, mainly Muslim Brotherhood elements as well as al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters, since the crisis started in 2011. MIT has been involved in the funding, arming, and training of Libyan groups aligned with the Turkish government, and Turkish paramilitary contractor SADAT as well as Syrian jihadist fighters were enlisted by the government to fuel the civil war in Libya.
Because of his role in MIT assignments, Sümercan was promoted up the ranks and became an important figure in Erdoğan’s protective detail, which was the subject of a purge in 2012 when four police chiefs and five team leaders in the protection department and numerous officers of various lower ranks were suddenly reassigned to other positions under orders from Erdoğan, who was building a new protective team that was totally loyal and would not mind breaking laws or doing whatever the boss wanted, even if it were illegal.
Sümercan is among those wanted by US authorities for attacking protestors outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence in May 2017 in Washington, D.C. He is charged with felony assault resulting in significant bodily injury and misdemeanor assault or threatening assault in a menacing manner. He was seen in the front line, kicking and beating a protestor who was down and bleeding on the pavement of a DC street.
Demonstrators protesting the policies of President Erdoğan, who was visiting Washington for a White House meeting with Donald Trump, were countered by agitated supporters of the Turkish head of state and subsequently attacked by the Turkish president’s bodyguards, footage of the incident showed. Another video clip showed Erdoğan apparently giving the order for his security detail to attack the protesters and watching it unfold outside the ambassador’s residence on Sheridan Circle.
The altercation was not the first time that Turkish security forces had stirred violence in the American capital. Members of Erdoğan’s security team had collided with demonstrators a year earlier outside the Brookings Institution, where Erdoğan was giving a speech. Brookings wrote on its website that Erdoğan’s bodyguards had “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or the Chinese.”
In another encounter in 2019, the security team of Erdoğan, who was on a two-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, had an altercation with the local police in Sarajevo after Erdoğan’s bodyguards refused to hand over their weapons upon arrival at the airport.
Sümercan’s role in a failed coup bid in 2016 that was seen by many as a false flag intelligence operation for a mass purge in the Turkish military, was also documented in court cases. The judicial papers showed that he was calling around and ordering prosecutors and police chiefs to detain senior military officers in Antalya although he had no jurisdiction or mandate to do so.
His wife, Elif Uzun Sümercan, was identified as one of the most notorious torturers in Turkey who abused and ill-treated top-ranking generals who were held illegally at an unofficial detention site in Ankara in 2016. Multiple victims testified in court, naming her as one of the key police officers who were engaged in brutal torture sessions for days. She was deputy chief of the Ankara Police Department’s counterterrorism unit at the time. Elif Uzun Sümercan has recently been rewarded by Erdoğan, who appointed her as a department head at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016, which, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.