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Turkish intelligence secretly released ISIS fighters

Security General Directorate, OBIPAS, ISIS, Operasyonel Bilgi Paylaşım Sistemi

Counterterrorism

Turkish intelligence secretly released ISIS fighters

The intelligence confirms the Turkish government’s revolving door policy in the systematic and deliberate failure of the criminal justice system to effectively crack down on ISIS and other armed jihadist groups. The Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan facilitated the travel of jihadists to Syria and armed and supported them. Writes Abdullah Bozkurt

According to secret intelligence dispatched by the Security General Directorate (Emniyet), militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had been released in stages from prisons in the Turkish province of Adana, home to US and NATO allied troops near the Syrian border.

“Individuals who were caught trying to enter our country illegally while operating in areas controlled by the ISIS terrorist group in Syria and arrested on charges of ‘membership in an armed terrorist organization’ have gradually been released from prison,” the intelligence note filed on May 8, 2016, stated.  

The document, obtained by Nordic Monitor, indicated that the security directorate transmitted classified information through an interagency cooperation mechanism called OBIPAS (Operational Information Sharing System, or Operasyonel Bilgi Paylaşım Sistemi in Turkish).

OBIPAS is a pool system that was established to share sensitive intelligence among the police, gendarmerie, intelligence agency MIT, General Staff and Foreign Ministry. The intelligence was reviewed and submitted to the command at the General Staff on May 19, 2016 as part of the daily intelligence briefing to update senior military leadership.

The intelligence confirms the Turkish government’s revolving door policy in the systematic and deliberate failure of the criminal justice system to effectively crack down on ISIS and other armed jihadist groups. The Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan facilitated the travel of jihadists to Syria and armed and supported them.

The police were concerned that ISIS militants who were released from Turkish prisons or returned to the country from fighting in Syria would reorganize themselves in Adana’s Yeşilbağalar neighborhood. ISIS also exerted pressure on ISIS defectors and used violence against them, according to the the intelligence.

The note mentioned that Hüseyin Esef Demirel, Halil Özden and Mehmet Yeşildeniz left ISIS for various reasons but faced pressure and violence in the neighborhood by ISIS supporters.

It is not known how many ISIS terrorists were actually released in Turkey from detention centers and prisons because the government has never announced the figure. However, it was estimated that thousands of ISIS militants were let go after detention based on statistics provided by government officials at various times.

Responding to a parliamentary question on July 21, 2020, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said 1,195 ISIS members were kept in jails either as convicts or suspects in pretrial detention. Of these, 791 were foreign nationals, he added. He declined to say how many had actually been convicted.

Gül’s response clearly contradicted an announcement by Erdoğan on October 10, 2019 that “to date, our country has detained 17,000 people, most of whom are not Turkish citizens, who were believed to be linked to ISIS. Nearly 5,500 of them, half of whom are foreign nationals, are still in prisons in our country, in pre-trial detention or convicted of crimes.”

That means in nine months over 4,000 ISIS suspects and convicts were released from Turkish prisons. What is more, the number indicates that the police crackdown failed in most cases to secure a formal arrest or conviction of the suspects. Of the 17,000 people who were detained on ISIS charges, only 1,195 according to the justice minister’s figure, or 5,500 according to the president’s number, were incarcerated.

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