Turkish ex-judiciary and military officials who seized trucks loaded with weapons bound for Syria six years ago have been sentenced to jail terms between 17 and 26 years.
The T24 news website reported on Friday that the Turkish Court of Cassation (Yargitay) passed down sentences to the former judiciary and military officials who seized the trucks run by Turkey’s state intelligence agency in 2013 and 2014.
They were accused of gathering secret state documents upon organizational instruction.
The former Adana Chief prosecutor Suleyman Bagriyanik was sentenced to 22 years and six months while former Adana prosecutor with special authorization Aziz Takci was jailed for 26 years.
Former Adana Gendarmerie District Commander Brigadier Hamza Celepoglu was jailed for 20 years; former Adana prosecutor Ozcan Sisman to 17 years and three months and former Adana Gendarmerie Province Commander Staff Colonel Ozkan Cokay to 20 years and five months.
Ahmet Karaca, former Adana Deputy Chief prosecutor was sentenced to 18 years and nine months.
In November 2013, a truck was stopped and seized in southern Turkey near the Syrian border in a joint operation by police and gendarmerie at the behest of prosecutors acting on tip-offs.
A search of the truck found that it was full of weapons and ammunition under a camouflage of medicines. Its occupants were officials of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT).
The MIT was allegedly carrying the weapons to opposition forces fighting against the Syrian regime.
Later in January 2014, three more trucks were stopped near the first region. However, the MIT personnel resisted the search this time. The trucks were held for a while.
The Adana Governor Huseyin Avni Cos intervened in the case, saying that the MIT personnel and activities could not be questioned without permission of the then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The trucks were later released on state secret grounds and carried on their journey to Syria.
Following the incidents, the judiciary and military officials involved in the operations were immediately discharged by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and arrested. In covering up the incident the government declared that the trucks contained humanitarian aid to Turkmens in Syria.
However, daily Cumhuriyet published photos and video footage from the MIT convoy operations in May 2015 revealing that the trucks were carrying arms to parts of Syria under radical Islamist control.
Western allies raised their concern over Turkey’s arms transfer, as it meant they were contributing to the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), a militant group that has carved a self-declared caliphate in some parts of Syria and Iraq.
Can Dundar, editor-in-chief at Cumhuriyet daily, Erdem Gul, Cumhuriyet Ankara Bureau chief and Enis Berberoglu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican’s People Party (CHP) were later arrested on charges of treason and acquiring and publishing classified information for the purpose of espionage.