A lobbyist who works in Washington, D.C., to promote the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was flagged during a confidential probe conducted by prosecutors into Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force cells in Turkey.
According to documents from the investigation obtained by Nordic Monitor, the phone conversations of Hakan Çopur, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, were intercepted during the monitoring of Quds Force suspects by police between 2011 and 2014. The investigation unmasked dozens of Quds Force operatives from Turkey and Iran, some working undercover as diplomats attached to the Iranian Embassy in Ankara and Consulate General in Istanbul and some working within the inner circle of President Erdoğan.
Çopur’s name came up after police secured wiretap authorizations to run surveillance on suspects and track their phone and email communications. According to a secret document, Çopur was caught on November 28, 2013 talking to a target who was suspected of working for the Quds Force. The wiretaps were incorporated into the investigation to build a case against the Quds Force.
The court documents further revealed that Çopur was linked to the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH), described as the logistics supplier for al-Qaeda’s global operations. In documents sent to the prosecutor’s office, the IHH acknowledged the work of Çopur, whom it said contributed to the organization as a volunteer.
FARA filing shows Hakan Çopur as a foreign agent for the Turkish government:TRT_Fara_filing_US
In disclosures filed under the US Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) on November 4, 2022 Çopur was listed as the foreign agent for the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (Türkiye Radyo ve Televizyon Kurumu, TRT), a mouthpiece for the Erdoğan government that operates its US branch under a similar name and is controlled by Erdoğan’s office.
Having lost its partial independence a decade ago, TRT was asked by US officials to register under FARA in April 2018, but the network refused to comply, claiming independence from Turkey and falsely stating that it was not controlled by a foreign government. However, in August 2019 an assessment made by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section made clear that TRT was controlled by a foreign government and thus required to register. In the end, TRT reluctantly went along with it.
Çopur had worked for Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu in Washington since 2015. In September 2022 he was appointed to replace Tuncay Yürekli, who had served as deputy director of TRT in Ankara, before his appointment to the US as the principal agent representing TRT in the US capital.
He cultivated close ties with the inner circle of President Erdoğan when he started working as communications coordinator for the Turkish intelligence-linked SETA foundation, which functions as a revolving door for staffing Islamists in key positions in the government. İbrahim Kalın, the presidential spokesman and a chief aide to the Turkish president, was a former director of SETA. Kalın, nurtured in the Quds Force network in Turkey, is a great admirer and sympathizer of Iran’s mullah regime and publicly praised Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in articles he wrote in the past for an Iranian-funded publication.
After a stint at SETA, Çopur moved to the office of the president to manage public relations and social media. From there he was sent to the US under the cover of a journalist to continue disseminating propaganda on behalf of the Erdoğan government.
His activity on Twitter suggests he is anti-American and anti-Israel. In one message posted on Twitter on July 2, 2015, he asked why the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had never attacked American or Israeli targets. “I wonder when ISIS will attack an American base or Zionist Israel? Oh pardon me, this organization wouldn’t attack places that are more powerful than it is, would it!!!” he wrote.
It is hardly surprising to see such comments from Çopur given his connection to the staunchly antisemitic IHH, whose president, Fehmi Bülent Yıldırım, called for the destruction of Israel and pledged to raise 1 million young men to fight against the Jewish state. The IHH has been closely working with Turkish intelligence agency MIT, according to confidential documents published by Nordic Monitor.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office asked the IHH on June 9, 2015 whether Çopur had any connection to the IHH. In a response on June 15, 2015 the IHH confirmed that Çopur was working as a volunteer with the organization. This information was later incorporated into an indictment and submitted to a court.
Turkish court document that confirms Hakan Çopur’s links to the jihadist IHH:Hakan_Copur_IHH_connection_diocument
The IHH offices were raided in 2014 in connection to an al-Qaeda investigation by public prosecutors, and the evidence collected indicated that the IHH’s logistics centers were used to send supplies to al-Qaeda groups by a Turkish cell run by İbrahim Şen, a top al-Qaeda operative who was detained in Pakistan and jailed at Guantanamo until 2005 before he was turned over to Turkey. Şen was also convicted in Turkey and served time and was later recruited by the Turkish intelligence agency to run arms and fighters to Syrian jihadist groups for the effort to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The IHH letter sent to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office listed Hakan Çopur as volunteer member:IHH_Letter_Hakan_Copur
The IRGC Quds Force case in which Çopur’s name was flagged in Turkey never went to trial because the Erdoğan government hushed it up in February 2014 after learning about the probe. The investigating prosecutor was sacked before he had a chance to secure detention warrants for the suspects or file an indictment. The suspects avoided the long arm of the law thanks to the intervention of Erdoğan, who apparently protected pro-Iranian assets and helped their Quds Force handlers escape from Turkey.
Irfan Fidan, the new prosecutor, personally selected by Erdoğan to torpedo the Quds Force probe, dropped all the charges against the Iranian and Turkish nationals who were identified as part of Quds Force cells. Fidan also launched a new criminal case against everyone who was involved in the investigation into the Quds Force and ordered the detention of the police chiefs who had uncovered the sophisticated Iranian network in Turkey. Fidan was rewarded by the Erdoğan government for squelching the probe and appointed as a member of the Constitutional Court in 2020.
Some of the suspects investigated in the original Quds Force case and saved by Erdoğan were designated under sanctions by the US Treasury in May 2022. According to the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Turkish nationals Hakkı Selçuk Şanlı, Abdulhamit Çelik and Seyyid Cemal Gündüz worked with IRGC official Behnam Shahriyari (aka Sayed Ali Akber Mir Vakili) in an international oil smuggling and money laundering network that generated hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
A secret document that lists Çopur’s name and phone among those who were intercepted during the Quds Force probe. Prosecutors secured warrants for wiretaps as part of the terrorism investigation into dozens of Quds Force suspects in Turkey between 2011 and 2014:Wiretap_listing_Hakan_Copur
The information provided by US officials corroborated the findings of the Turkish police, who had already identified the designated individuals as part of the Quds Force network during the criminal probe pursued by public prosecutors between 2011 and 2014. The probe found that these key individuals were connected to Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkish intelligence agency MIT, who was groomed in Shiite study circles during his youth.
The flagging of Çopur happened at the end of November 2013, only two months before the Erdoğan government moved to kill the investigation. If the probe had been allowed to continue, the investigators would most likely have mapped out Çopur’s entire web of links within the terrorist organization and to what extent, if any, he was aiding and abetting Quds Force operatives. He could have been listed as a suspect in the case and may very well have been indicted if the evidence so warranted.
Now Çopur lives in Virginia under the cover of a journalist and has access to many organizations and events including ones organized by the US government. He manages a huge amount of money sent from Turkey and is able to hire people to continue TRT operations on behalf of the Erdoğan government.
The FARA filing shows that TRT’s US branch, operated from an office building located at 1275 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, spent its budget of over half a million US dollars in the nine months between January and September of last year. The bulk of the budget, $364,000 was used to pay freelancers in the US according to figures provided in the FARA filing. The information submitted to US authorities did not name people whom Çopur paid for the work they did for TRT.