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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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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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