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Turkey

Fresh Accusations Of "Deep State" Crimes In Turkey

A recent investigation of unsolved political murders and forcibly evacuated villages in southeastern Turkey cites JITEM, a clandestine intel unit linked to the Turkish military.

Watching soldiers in Istanbul
Watching soldiers in Istanbul
Mesut Hasan Benli

KIZILTEPE - A legal investigation completed by the Kiziltepe Prosecutor’s Office in southeastern Turkey cites JITEM (an acronym for Gendarmerie Intelligence services) for “systematic” unsolved political murders and forced evacuation of villages in the area.

Although it is being accused of countless illegal acts over the years in eastern and southeastern Turkey, the JITEM’s existence has never been officially accepted by the military. There are ongoing trials with defendants who are widely suspected of being JITEM members, but the name of the organization has never been written in court documents.

This investigation by the Kiziltepe Prosecutor’s Office is focusing on retired colonel Hasan Atilla Ugur, who is also currently facing charges in the controversial Ergenekon case. Similarly that organization is considered a sort of “deep state” power, with hundreds of military personnel accused of being part of a clandestine ultra-national organization that had tried last decade to overthrow the current government led by AKP and Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan.

The local prosecutor’s office sent its latest findings report to the head prosecutor’s office at Diyarbakir. It includes the names of Ugur, who used to be the Kiziltepe Gendarmerie commander, and eight other soldiers, known as “Team Knife,” suspected in the unsolved murders and systematic evacuation of local villages during the 1990s. “It is understood that the matters of the unsolved murders, disappearances, eviction from the villages and torture were commonly committed during 1993-1996; therefore it is also sure that the illegal organization called the JITEM existed and continued its actions after 1990 despite claims otherwise.” The difference in this investigation is that it openly says the JITEM is responsible for the unsolved murders and the forced evictions of the villages.

The report says the anti-terrorism activity of the state was taken out of the legal boundaries at a certain period, and continues with the following statements: “It is a reality that formations organized by the public servants working at this field, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) foremost, killed or taken similar illegal actions such as murder under torture against the organization members, its supporters and sympathizers without due procedure.” The mentioned organization here is the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

The report goes on to say that the entire authority in the area was in the hands of military officials and the units under their command while the judicial and governmental personnel turned a blind eye to things. The JITEM acted not just with political motives but also for illegal financial gain, the report says.

“Violent actions like murdering people during interrogation and throwing bodies down wells cannot be explained as ‘anti-terrorism struggle.’ On the contrary, these are crimes of terrorism themselves,” the report says. “The possibility that this organization, which spent public money, committed serious crimes like systematic murder and torture…must be further investigated.”

Among the alleged crimes cited was one against Memduh Demir, a shepherd tending to his cattle in a rural area near Yücebag village on May 13, 1995. After a clash between Turkey security forces and the PKK, PKK member Bedri Kapan was wouned and captured. According to the testimonies of village guards, both Demir and Kapan were thrown to their deaths from a helicopter.

The Gendarmerie has denied any wrongdoing, and says that the villages were abandoned because the residents left on their own accord.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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