Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan hosted an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force general who was under investigation for terrorism in Turkey, provided security for his associates and loaned him the spy agency’s plane to fly to Tehran.
According to the prosecutor’s investigation file, IRGC Quds Force Gen. Sayed Ali Akber Mir Vakili, tagged by the police as a major suspect in an Iranian-backed terrorist network in Turkey, met with Fidan on October 23, 2013.
While Mir Vakili was in Ankara, the Turkish intelligence chief assigned a security detail to him and his associates, set up a secret meeting with then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and arranged for the spy agency’s plane to take him back to Tehran without having to deal with customs and immigration formalities.
Mir Vakili had been the subject of a counterterrorism probe in Turkey since 2011, when police identified a major Turkish asset named Hüseyin Avni Yazıcıoğlu, who had been convicted in the past for his involvement in an Iranian-backed terror group. Yazıcıoğlu was reactivated after his release from prison and engaged in secret meetings with Iranian officials and IRGC handlers.
Prosecutors in İstanbul launched an investigation on April 8, 2011 under case file 2011/762, and started mapping out the entire IRGC operation in Turkey. They obtained wiretap warrants from the courts to listen in on suspects and ordered the police to run surveillance of IRGC operatives in order to build a counterterrorism case against Iranian and Turkish nationals.
Wiretap that recorded a phone conversation between Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and an Iranian asset named Faruk Koca:Hakan_Fidan_Faruk_Koca_wiretap
Turkish spy chief Fidan was flagged when he was caught talking to key suspects in the case. His name was frequently mentioned by the IRGC’s Turkish assets as a trusted man who was nurtured in Shiite study meetings he attended when he was a young noncommissioned officer.
In a wiretap dated October 21, 2013 at 21:35 hours, Fidan was identified as the person who was talking to Faruk Koca, a Turk who was also convicted on terrorism charges in the past for his involvement in an Iranian-backed terror group. He asked Koca if he was receiving guests from Iran without mentioning Mir Vakili’s name. Koca said Mir Vakili would soon come and wanted a meeting set up with Erdoğan. Fidan said he would arrange it.
Two minutes later, Koca called Mir Vakili to inform him that he was working on the arrangements for his visit and had told Fidan about the meeting. Mir Vakili said he wanted to confirm his clearance with his bosses in Tehran, but Koca said he had already put everything in motion and that Mir Vakili just needed to come to Ankara. The IRGC general agreed.
The next day at 21:32 hours, Koca and Fidan spoke again according to the wiretap records and discussed logistics and last-minute changes to the arrangements. Erdoğan’s private meeting with the IRGC general was still not confirmed at that stage, despite the fact that Fidan had talked to the prime minister about Mir Vakili’s upcoming visit. Fidan also told Koca that the intelligence agency would pick Mir Vakili up at the airport instead of Koca making arrangements for an airport meeting.
The two also talked about getting assistance from Sefer Turan, Erdoğan’s chief advisor on the Middle East and also a suspect in the investigation into the IRGC Turkish network. Fidan said Turan would facilitate the arrangements for the meetings. In a wiretap dated October 23, 2013 at 18:12 hours Turan called Koca to tell him he would also participate in Mir Vakili’s meeting with Erdoğan.
The wiretap records reveal that Mir Vakili put a special emphasis on his meetings in Ankara. When he was unable to contact Koca immediately on the phone, he called his long-time asset Hakkı Selçuk Şanlı, a convicted felon who carried out bombings on behalf of the IRGC in the past, to ask him to locate Koca and have him return his call. As instructed Şanlı called Koca to tell him that his boss, Mir Vakili, had been unable to reach him. Koca then called Mir Vakili to reassure him that the meeting would go as planned.
Şanlı’s rap sheet as detailed in a September 2001 indictment filed by prosecutor Hamza Keleş shows that he was first recruited in 1984 by a group known as Tevhid, a pro-Iran outfit set up by Iranian intelligence in Turkey. The group, clustered around Iranian propaganda magazine Tevhid, aimed to establish an Islamic regime similar to that in Iran. In 1986 the Quds Force used some members of the group for purposes of espionage and transporting explosives. Şanlı was a key operative who traveled between Turkey and Iran many times, trained by the Quds Force and involved in a series of terror plots.
Summary of the police investigation into IRGC Quds Force general Sayed Ali Akber Mir Vakili and his Turkish contacts including intelligence agency chief Hakan Fidan:Turkish_intelligence_chief_hosted_IRGC_General_wiretaps
In a statement to the police, Şanlı admitted that the Quds Force sought his help in 1988 to plant explosives at the Saudi American Bank, located in Istanbul’s Harbiye neighborhood. The plan was executed under orders from IRGC general Nasir Takipur on March 10, 1988, and a bomb planted next to the bank caused damage to surrounding buildings but no causalities.
On October 23, 2013 Mir Vakili and his associates came to Turkey as planned. The Turkish intelligence chief made the arrangements for Mir Vakili’s travels while in Turkey and also provided a security detail to ensure he would not be under surveillance. They had no idea that the prosecutor’s confidential investigation was ongoing, and the police managed to photograph Mir Vakili and his associates under surveillance.
While Mir Vakili was meeting with Fidan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, his associates were on a shopping spree, accompanied by the MIT security detail. Koca sent his children, Abdullah Koca and Kubra Koca, to help them during their spending frenzy. The surveillance photographs were incorporated into the case file on the IRGC.
The meeting with Erdoğan took place on October 25, 2013 at the prime minister’s private residence in Ankara’s Keçiören district. The secret meeting was inadvertently revealed to the public by Erdoğan himself in a speech he delivered in the eastern province of Van on October 26. Erdoğan described Mir Vakili as a “friend from Iran who came yesterday” without explicitly mentioning his name and said he and his friend talked about Muslims who had been killed in the Syrian civil war.
After his meeting with Erdoğan, Mir Vakili returned to Iran on a plane operated by the Turkish intelligence agency. Although Mir Vakili entered Turkey after clearing customs and immigration, no such procedures applied when he left Turkey on the spy agency’s plane according to the investigation case file.
The IRGC Quds Force case in Turkey never went to trial because the Erdoğan government squelched it in February 2014 after learning about the probe, which clearly incriminated senior government officials. The investigating prosecutor was sacked before he had a chance to secure detention warrants for the suspects or file an indictment. Koca, Turan, Şanlı, Mir Vakili and many other Iranian and Turkish suspects avoided the long arm of justice thanks to the intervention of Erdoğan, who apparently protected pro-Iranian assets and helped IRGC Quds Force handlers escape from Turkey.