Generals arrested in MİT trucks probe challenge court decision

Ankara gendarmerie regional commander Maj. Gen. İbrahim Aydın, former Adana gendarmerie regional commander Brig. Gen. Hamza Celepoglu and former Gendarmerie Criminal Laboratory head retired Col. Burhanettin Cihangiroglu were detained on Nov. 28 and referred to an İstanbul court for arrest on Nov. 29. The İstanbul Second Criminal Court of Peace ruled for the arrest pending trial of Aydın, Celepoglu and Cihangiroglu shortly after midnight on Nov. 30.

The appeal petition filed by Celepoglu’s lawyer, Vural Ergul, says his client is a soldier and the charges are related to his military duty and services. “Thus, the jurisdiction belongs to military courts,” the petition said, implying that the İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of Peace, which arrested the senior military officials, acted out of its jurisdiction by arresting the military officials.

Aydın and Cihangiroglu were arrested on charges of obtaining confidential information for the purposes of political or military espionage; disclosing confidential information pertaining to state security for espionage purposes; attempting to destroy or prevent the government of the Republic of Turkey from functioning; and founding or leading an armed terrorist organization. Celepoglu was arrested on charges of attempting to destroy or prevent the government of the Republic of Turkey from functioning and founding or leading an armed terrorist organization.

The arrest came as part of a court case into the prosecutors and security personnel who conducted searches on trucks en route Syria after being tipped off that they were transporting weapons. It emerged during the search that the trucks belonged to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

The first stop-and-search took place in Hatay province on Jan. 1, 2014. Another anonymous tip led to three more trucks being intercepted in Turkey’s southern province of Adana on Jan. 19, 2014.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was prime minister when the search of the trucks became public, said on a TV program at the time the trucks were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria. He was particularly angry with the prosecutor for having demanded the search of the trucks to be recorded on video and described the search as “treason.”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was foreign minister at the time, asserted that the cargo was humanitarian aid intended for embattled Syrian Turkmens on the other side of the border. However, Syrian Turkmen Assembly Vice Chairman Hussein al-Abdullah said in January 2014 no trucks carrying aid had arrived from Turkey.

On Nov. 24, Erdogan seemingly validated claims that the government was sending weapon-filled trucks to radical groups in Syria by sarcastically asking, “So what if the MİT trucks were filled with weapons?” Speaking to a room full of teachers gathered for Teachers’ Day, Erdogan said: “You know about the treason regarding the MİT trucks, don’t you? So what if there were weapons in them? I believe that our people will not forgive those who sabotaged this support.”