Turkey’s Al-Qaeda Catch and Release Program: 2003 HSBC Bombers and a Dead Journalist
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : An individual described as Z.C. was detained by security forces in Turkey after he confessed in court to his involvement in four November 2003 truck bombings in Istanbul, targeting the British Consulate, HSBC Bank and two synagogues. Ironically, in September 2012 journalist Maya Nasr was shot dead by a sniper in Damascus while he was investigating the presence of Al-Qaeda terrorists who were supposed to be serving time in a Turkish prison among “rebels” in Syria.
Turkey’s gendarmerie detained Z.C. following an earlier conviction for membership in al-Qaeda. A deputy imam from the village of Alic in Cankiri has reportedly now also confessed to involvement in the 2003 bombings. It is at this time not 100 percent sure whether this deputy imam is identical with Z.C.
On November 15 in 2003, two truck bombs targeted the Bet Israel and Shalom synagogues in Istanbul. Five days later two more truck bombs detonated at the HSBC bank headquarters and the British consulate. The explosions killed 57 civilians including Britain’s Consul General for Istanbul Roger Short.
More than 700 people were injured in the blasts. Z.C. was initially detained as a suspect in the bombings, but released by a court. He subsequently went to Afghanistan where he joined the Al-Qaeda network.
After being detained in Afghanistan, he was extradited back to Turkey, where he was being tried without arrest for “being a member of a terrorist organization.” Turkish officials previously have charged at least 74 people for their involvement in the bombings, many like Harun Ilhan, who described himself as “an al-Qaeda warrior.”
Now, mass arrests, including mass arrests of innocent people and conviction on trumped up charges are no novelty in Turkey. The mass release of convicted terrorists including terrorists who had been sentenced and imprisoned for their role in the 2003 bombings, however, was a novelty in 2012 when Maya Nasr lost his life while he was investigating Turkey’s Al-Qaeda catch and release program.
In September 2012 Journalist Maya Naser was shot dead by a sniper in Damascus. The timing of the assassination indicates that Maya Naser may have been targeted because he came dangerously close to revealing serious war crimes committed by the Turkish government.
Maya Naser wrote, ”while I was covering the military operations in Aleppo, we saw the ID documents of 13 Turkish insurgents. When checking their identities we discovered that one of the fighters was the brother of the 2003 HSBC bomber from Istanbul”.” Such information”, Maya Naser wrote, ”led us to believe that the Turkish government is sending those convicted or under suspicion of being Al-Qaeda members to fight as insurgents in Syria”.
In subsequent, personal conversations between Maya Naser and the author of this article, he reiterated that there is further evidence that corroborates the suspicion that the government of Turkey is sending prisoners who have received a death sentence and those who serve life time sentences to Syria as an opportunity to be released from prison and as a chance to clear their record.
International lawyer Christopher Black responded to Maya Naser’s information, stating that if his information was correct, then the Turkish government is committing a war crime under the Rome Statute, which forbids forced service of non-combatants in war.
According to Christopher Black it would be possible to file a complaint with the ICC against Turkey and NATO if corroborating evidence could be produced, stating that if Turkey is involved in these crimes, then its partners are equally guilty. Two days later Maya Naser was shot by a sniper when he and his cameraman rushed to the scene of a double bomb attack in Damascus.
Further inquiries revealed that insurgents supported by Turkish special forces and intelligence were monitoring Maya Nasr’s Twitter feeds prior to the assassination. Further investigations by nsnbc international also revealed that the sniper team that assassinated Nasr was on location about two hours before the bomb blast that prompted Maya Nasr and his colleague Hossein Mortada to come to the scene of the bombing.
The discovery of the passports and the death of maya Nasr was largely omitted by Turkey’s media with the exception of very few that dared carry the story. The developments in Turkey bring to mind the words of the renown author Albert Camus who wrote “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad”.
CH/L – nsnbc 20.04.2017