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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused opposition MP Eren Erdem of “betrayal”. Erdem told RT that Islamic State terrorists had obtained sarin gas supplies through Turkish territory –and that Ankara did nothing despite having all the evidence.
“There is a deputy in this country, buried so deep in a pit of betrayal, and to a party that claims to be as old as the republic saying during an interview to a foreign television channel that Turkey is selling chemical weapons to terrorists”, Erdogan told a crowd in the city of Konya. The Turkish President also called the silence of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) concerning Erdem’s revelations “treason”. “What is this party waiting for ? Why are they silent ? This is treason. How can you allege this country sells sarin gas to the terrorist state of Syria which is run by the murderer Assad ?” Erdogan said, as cited by local media. “Shame on those who still keep him in the party !” he added.
What Erdem actually revealed in an interview with RT on Monday [December 14, 2015] were the details from a criminal case opened, and then abruptly closed, by the General Prosecutor’s Office in the Turkish city of Adana. His account alleges that Turkish authorities had acquired a great deal of evidence concerning sarin gas shipments to those Al-Qaeda militants in Syria that later became known globally as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), but did nothing to stop them. “Chemical weapon materials were brought to Turkey and put together in ISIS camps in Syria, which was known as the Iraqi Al-Qaeda at that time”, Erdem told RT. The indictment stated that the chemical weapon components had originally come from specific European countries and were to be seamlessly shipped via a specific route through Turkey to militant labs in Syria. Despite the detailed evidence available, the 13 suspects arrested in raids in connection with the plot were released and the case was closed after merely a week. Erdem speculated that the Ghouta chemical weapons attack in Syria, which took place in August 2013 shortly after the case wrapped up, was most probably carried out by jihadists with the sarin gas smuggled through Turkey. Furthermore, Erdem pointed at some evidence implicating the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation and, allegedly, the Turkish Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag in the sarin smuggling business. RT was far from being the only platform Erdem used to attract attention to the issue. The interview took place a week after the MP had confronted the government about the smuggling case in the Turkish parliament.
Erdem was accused of treason following his revelations and Ankara’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office opened a case against him. CHP Secretary-General Gursel Tekin has stressed that the party “stands behind” Erdem. Meanwhile, Erdem said he has received death threats on social media, adding that the Ottoman Hearths paramilitary organization has published his address on Twitter to enable attacks on his house.
Freelance journalist Merav Savir told RT that she tried to speak with Erdem on Thursday [December 17, 2015] morning. “He sounded afraid on the phone and told us that there were people outside his house here in Istanbul overnight, chanting death threats, calling him a traitor and waving Turkish flags”, Savir said. She added that this is a common for opposition politicians, who are afraid of commenting on the ongoing investigation.
Turkey detains & deports Russian journalists investigating ISIS oil trade reports
Russian journalists preparing an investigative report into Ankara’s alleged involvement in the oil trade with ISIS have been detained and deported from Turkey. Moscow strongly condemned the treatment of the Rossiya 1 TV crew, demanding explanations. “We strongly condemn the illegal actions of the Turkish authorities”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “Such an attitude towards the media is absolutely unacceptable”.
On Monday [December 7, 2015], the press crew of the TV program "Special Correspondent", headed by Alexander Buzaladze, were detained in southeastern Turkey by authorities in civilian clothes. The journalists were preparing an investigative report into the alleged smuggling of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil into Turkey.
The trouble for the Rossiya 1 TV crew started only once they arrived at the border, Buzaladze said after the deportation. He told Russian state-owned channel Vesti that while the crew worked in Istanbul and Ankara they had faced no opposition from the authorities. But as soon as they and tried to film close to the Turkish-Syrian border the crew was “blocked [by] the Turkish security forces” leaving them no time to even “get the camera out”. The Russian crew was arrested in Hatay province bordering Syria as they were on their way to the neighboring province of Gaziantep. According to Buzaladze, there the journalists wanted to film “the border itself, military hardware, people that work at the border, and the border crossing”. Turkish authorities were first of all concerned “whether we had a camera”, Buzaladze says. “The first thing they wanted to know [was] if we had a camera. The camera was left in the luggage compartment, locked in a case. Despite this, they took our documents, we were taken to the police station, later we photographed, fingerprinted, brought to the doctor for a medical examination to confirm that we are in a sane state, and that we are alive and well”, the journalist said. The crew was later informed by the Turkish side that they were being deported. At the same time, authorities failed to explain the reason behind their move, Buzaladedze notes. The Russian journalists were escorted by police to the airport and put on a plane back to Russia.
Throughout the entire incident the Turkish authorities refused to cooperate with Russian diplomats on the ground. The Russian Foreign Ministry wants to know the real reasons behind the detention of the Rossiya 1 crew, and remains curious as to what “rules” were violated by the Russian journalists. “The Turkish authorities refused to give explanations to representatives of the Russian Embassy in Turkey who got in touch with the crew shortly after its detention”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The group was deported apparently under the pretext of its members having violated laws for foreign journalists working in Turkey. The lack of a clear explanation, forces the Ministry to speculate that the journalistic investigation might have uncovered something which Turkey would rather not share with the world in light of Turkish-Russian tensions following the shooting down of the Russian Su-24 bomber last month. “One gets the impression that Ankara is scared that correspondents of the Rossiya 1 TV channel may throw a spotlight on facts about the illegal activities carried out in the Turkish-Syrian border area [that] the Turkish government would prefer to keep in the shadow[s]”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
According to Rossiya 1 TV channel, the journalists arrived in Turkey on an assignment “to make a package on what is actually happening on the border between Turkey and Syria, and to clarify the situation with the traffic across the border of militants and illegal oil tank trucks”.
The scandal over alleged oil profiteering on the part of Turkey follows the downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber by Turkey in Syrian airspace amid the ongoing campaign against ISIS oil infrastructure on the Syria-Turkey border. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the act as “a stab in the back” by terrorist supporters and accused Turkey of involvement in the illegal oil deals with IS.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry commissioner for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, said via Twitter that the latest incident shows that the Turkish authorities are ignoring international obligations with respect to the protection of journalists. Dolgov also called for international condemnation of the incident, including by the OSCE.
Overall, the latest incident, according to the ministry, is just part of the ongoing trend by the Turkish authorities to crack down on freedom of speech in the country. “The international organizations, including the OSCE, have repeatedly drawn [the] attention of the world public to this. In this regard, the detention of the editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet Can Dundar and the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul in late November over a report about the involvement of the Turkish intelligence agencies in the supplies of weapons to militants in Syria is indicative in this respect”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “The journalists were charged with "espionage, disclosure of state secrets and terrorism". They are facing life in prison”.
Video : Turkey : Russian journalists detained and deported from southern province