Turkey’s top court overturns terrorism conviction of ISIS suspect who looked for ways to get to Syria to fight

Levent Kenez/Stockholm

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay), the country’s highest appeals court, has overturned the terrorism conviction of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suspect who contacted ISIS members for help in reaching Syria to join the armed conflict waged by ISIS. area.

According to a Supreme Court decision dated October 3, 2022, obtained by Nordic Monitor, the court stated that the defendant was asked about the contact with ISIS members through social networking sites such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook and the situation on the roads to Syria. It is not proof of membership in a terrorist organization.

However, the court concluded that the accused’s sharing of images praising ISIS, posters promoting the organization and photos of terrorists on his Facebook page indicated that he was in fact a member of the organization.

The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the local court’s verdict and ruled that the accused should be tried again. The Supreme Court in its judgment said that he was accepting membership in a terrorist organization because he received orders from that organization.

Supreme Court Verdict:

Yargıtay İçtihat is new

Legal experts contacted by Nordic Monitor said the Supreme Court’s decisions were more liberal when it came to ISIS members, but they did not see the same liberal stance in the court’s decisions against Kurdish suspects and members of the Gulen movement, which is critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Tayyip Erdogan.

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For example, the Turkish government has accepted activities such as having an account at the Gülen-affiliated Bank Asya, holding an administrative position in a Gülen movement-linked organization, subscribing to the group’s publications, and being a member of a trade union or other organization. Using the ByLock encrypted messaging app as benchmarks to identify and arrest tens of thousands of followers of the Gülen movement and on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

On November 15, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in a decision on the Gülen-affiliated defendant’s application, said, “In principle, the use or downloading of an encrypted communication tool or a bank account does not in itself constitute proof of membership in an illegal armed organization, unless supported by other evidence, such as conversation records.

According to Jurisprudence According to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), sympathizing with a terrorist organization is not a crime unless it involves violence.

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Turkey’s judiciary and security forces are known to be tolerant of ISIS members, and ISIS has also received support from Turkey to fight Kurdish militants in Syria, whom Turkey considers terrorists.

Few ISIS suspects are on Turkey’s most-wanted list, while many critics who have nothing to do with terrorism are included on the fugitive list, but the government is not really interested in cracking down on ISIS. Of the 1,304 people on the list, only 84 are ISIS members, about 6 percent of the total sought. Although ISIS has killed more people, the list has never included former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a US strike in October 2019, a few kilometers from the Turkish border in northern Syria, since its creation. Several soldiers and Turkish police were attacked by car bombs, including 200 civilians and two soldiers burned alive in Turkey and abroad. Similarly, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, the successor to al-Baghdadi who was killed this week, is not on the wanted list.

Turkish officials have not disclosed the number of successful convictions in ISIS cases and declined to respond to parliamentary questions asking for such information. Instead, they often float statistics on the number of detentions and in some cases arrests, which in most cases lead to acquittals and releases.

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According to Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu, police detained 2,438 ISIS suspects in 2021, but only formally arrested 487 of them, corresponding to a 20 percent arrest rate. In other words, four out of five ISIS suspects detained were never jailed. He did not give an estimate of how many were released after being arrested. In most cases, Turkish courts have released formally arrested ISIS suspects pending trial at their first trial.

Thousands of Turkish and foreign militants have entered Syria with the help of smugglers using Turkish territory to fight alongside ISIS groups there. The Turkish intelligence agency MIT facilitated their journey through Kilis, a border province in Turkey’s southeast, one of the main crossing points into ISIS-held territory. Human smugglers are known to be active in the border region, although Turkish authorities often ignore their trips in and out of Syria.

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