Via Today’s Zaman:
(h/t: Jawa Report)
Detained policemen standing trial on charges of wiretapping have claimed that they were prevented from putting suspects linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization and other groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) under close surveillance.
The defense testimony of the policemen was heard at the 9th İzmir High Criminal Court, where 32 police officers are standing trial after they were detained in a number of provinces across Turkey on Aug. 19 on accusations of illegal wiretapping.
Of those 32, 11 were placed under arrest in İzmir. Among those arrested include former Batman Police Chief Hasan Ali Okan. Most of the officers detained were involved in a tender-rigging investigation in İzmir as well as in an investigation into an espionage ring allegedly involving members of the military.
Muhammed Suad Çelen, one of the policemen who delivered his defense statement, said all the wiretapping activities were conducted legally and with a court decision, adding that there was no way the policemen could have benefitted from the wiretapping.
Çelen said the police intelligence unit ordered them not to conduct surveillance regarding al-Qaeda after Syria-bound trucks carrying weapons were intercepted in the southern province of Adana in January. He claimed that one Turkish police officer and one soldier were killed in Niğde by al-Qaeda militants because the terrorists could not be wiretapped. “All of us are now a target for al-Qaeda,” Çelen said.
The detained officers were involved in an anti-corruption operation that went public on Dec. 17 as well as the Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Ergenekon, Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and Tawhid-Salam investigations. Tawhid-Salam is an Iranian-backed terrorist organization.
Prosecutors say the operations against the policemen were launched after allegations of spying and illegal wiretapping, but they are widely believed to be an act of government revenge for the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery operation. They are seen as targeting the faith-based Hizmet movement. Erdoğan accuses the movement of being behind a plot to oust him, and the movement denies the accusation.
Çelen’s lawyer, Ali Aksoy, said the primary reason for the trial is his client’s investigation of ISIL. He added that the intelligence unit chief blocked him from conducting work to expose ISIL militants.
Another police chief who is a suspect in the trial, Mustafa Edip Çakmak, rejected all the accusations of illegal wiretapping.
Meanwhile, former Kilis Police Intelligence Unit Chief Kenan Gök was detained at his house on Wednesday night. Gök was taken to the Kilis Police Department for interrogation. He had worked as the intelligence unit chief at the Kilis Police Department between 2007 and 2013. He was removed from his post following the Dec. 17 corruption probe and was sent to the Diyarbakır police academy.