An Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suspect who was wanted on a Red Notice by Interpol for a bloody massacre was released into house arrest following his detention in Turkey last week, a measure that is almost never applied to terrorist defendants in the country.
Turkey announced on June 4 that ISIS fugitive Arkan Taha Ahmad, an Iraqi citizen, had been detained in northwestern Bolu province. Ahmad is accused of involvement in the Camp Speicher massacre in 2014, when ISIS militants killed at least 1,700 Shiite and non-Muslim Iraqi soldiers who were trying to flee from a former US military base called Camp Speicher after ISIS took over the Iraqi city of Tikrit. The massacre is the second deadliest terrorist incident in history after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Although it seems that Ahmad didn’t make much of an effort to hide and resist, Turkish media published stories in which the Bolu police conducted a counterterrorism operation with scores of police officers, closing streets early in the morning. The Bolu police also shared footage recorded like a promotion video with news agencies in an effort to show how seriously the operation was taken.
Ahmad was released into house arrest for two months the same day by a local court in Bolu. Nordic Monitor has learned that Ahmet was taken directly to court after being detained at his home without being questioned by the police. The security forces apparently didn’t wonder how he had lived in Turkey unnoticed for so long, and the court didn’t even consider deporting him to Iraq due to the Red Notice.
Actually, Turkish law allows the police to ask the prosecutor to extend the period of custody up to 14 days. In a recent case 14 female university students in Ankara were in custody for seven days for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a civic group that is critical of the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is claimed that the police threaten detainees with the extension if they don’t admit to the accusations against them.
It is a fact that before international summits or important meetings Erdoğan has with world leaders, Turkey launches operations against ISIS militants to give the impression that it is fighting terrorism. A Nordic Monitor study indicates that in the last two months prior to the NATO summit in Brussel on June 14, Turkish police have detained at least 70 ISIS suspects in 11 cities across the country, a higher figure than in previous months. It is also not surprising that the Istanbul police raided a house some 500 meters from the US Consulate General in İstanbul on May 20.
Erdoğan issued a decree on Saturday freezing the assets of several ISIS-linked businesses operating in Turkey upon a request from the US after US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated three individuals and one entity in connection with ISIS. The three businessmen are accused of providing financial services through fly-by-night companies.
Eager to announce how many ISIS militants have been detained, the authorities are not so keen to reveal how many of them have been arrested. 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 is estimated that thousands of ISIS militants were let go after detention based on statistics provided by government officials at various times. The criminal justice system in Turkey, under the strict control of the Islamist government, has systematically failed to jail ISIS militants. Nordic Monitor has published multiple reports based on confidential documents and whistleblower accounts showing how Turkish intelligence worked closely with ISIS and al-Qaeda militants to promote the Erdoğan government’s political agenda as well as a secret intelligence document dispatched by Turkey’s Security General Directorate confirming that ISIS militants were released from Turkish prisons after short pre-trial detentions.
Moreover, Turkey’s most wanted list includes few ISIS suspects, while many critics who have nothing to do with terrorism are included on the list of fugitives, yet another sign of how the government is not really interested in cracking down on ISIS. There are only 84 alleged ISIS members out of the 1,304 people named on the list, amounting roughly 6 percent of the total wanted. Since its creation, the list has never included Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS who was killed by a US raid in October 2019, a few kilometers from the Turkish border in northern Syria, despite the fact that ISIS has killed more than 200 civilians in Turkey and abroad and a number of soldiers, including two who were burnt alive, and carried out a car bomb attack against the Turkish police. Similarly, al-Baghdadi’s successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, is not listed as wanted.
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