Turkey Bans Publication of Reports on Syria Arms Delivery

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Social media sites Twitter and Facebook, along with many other websites, have been blocked in Turkey after anonymous accounts published new evidence in an ongoing case accusing Turkey of illegal arms shipments to Islamist rebels in Syria, according to the Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman.

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) delivered a court ruling to Turkish newspapers, television, websites and social media networks, banning them from reporting the arms allegations.

Hurriyet newspaper on Wednesday reported that a Twitter account with the handle “[email protected]” posted written court proceedings referring to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) seizure of trucks in January of last year, based on suspicions they were carrying weapons to Syria.

The documents had shown that the trucks were moving weapons. They were subsequently circulated on many other websites and social media accounts.

According to Hurriyet, Turkish authorities are now demanding that websites in question delete all content related to the proceedings. The authorities have allegedly threatened to permanently shut down the websites if they do not comply.

"There are several court decisions against the websites that published the signed documents," a Turkish official was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.

Turkey frequently orders blackouts of media coverage of controversial issues.

In December, Turkish police raided media outlets close to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen on Sunday and detained 23 people nationwide, two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled a fresh campaign against Gulen's supporters

The raids on Zaman and Samanyolu television marked an escalation of Erdogan's battle with former ally Gulen, with whom he has been in open conflict since a corruption investigation targeting Erdogan's inner circle emerged a year ago.

"The free press cannot be silenced," a crowd chanted at the offices of Zaman as its editor Ekrem Dumanli made a speech defiantly challenging police to detain him, while elsewhere in Istanbul the chairman of Samanyolu TV was being detained.

Turkey’s Syria military aid

On January 3, 2014, Hurriyet published a report claiming that a significant quantity of ammunition and weapons were discovered in trucks whose drivers claimed that they were transporting aid on behalf of the pro-Islamic Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). IHH has called the report "slanderous."

The organization is known to have close ties with Erdogan’s government.

Anti- terror police raided IHH premises in the southern town of Kilis near the Syrian border in an early morning operation that Vice President Huseyin Oruc branded a "dirty plot" — echoing Erdogan's description of the corruption probe that has targeted key members of his inner circle.

IHH secretary general Yasar Kutluay told AFP that the action was a “smear campaign” that is “backed by people inside and outside of Turkey.”

"We certainly associated this operation with the corruption scandal. It is not only about IHH. They want to brand Turkey as a country which supports terrorism and want it to be tried before international courts," he said.

In November, a video published on Al-Mayadeen news channel’s website revealed that up to 100 civilians and militants cross the Syrian-Turkish border daily under the surveillance of the Turkish army, which doesn't interferes.

A foreign Islamist fighter who joined the Syrian rebel ranks in 2012 told Reuters that the Turkish borders “were wide open” and armed rebels “used to get in and out of Turkey very easily. No questions were asked. Arms shipments were smuggled easily into Syria.”

Meanwhile, a UN report, also published in December, singled out Turkey as a major transit point for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) oil deliveries, with trucks often returning to Iraq or Syria with refined products.

During talks in Russia in November between Syrian and Russian officials, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that,“both Russia and Syria have concrete information regarding the sides smuggling oil from Syria.”

He added that his country already sent the information to the Security Council.

The Syrian government has consistently accused Turkey, a NATO member and one of Washington's key allies in the region, of playing a major role in fueling the armed crisis in Syria by opening its borders and allowing free access to foreign jihadists into Syria.

Moreover, it is no secret that Turkey and the United States are still seeking to train and arm “moderate” rebels in Syria.

Earlier in January a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said that Turkey and the US aim to finalize an agreement on equipping and training the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels until the end of January. The aim is to train 15,000 Syrian rebels over three years.

"Around 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected to be trained in Turkey (in the first year)," the official said, adding that a "limited number" of US soldiers would come to Turkey to help carry out the training jointly with Turkish colleagues.

The US decision to train and equip rebel groups in Syria was criticized by several renowned officials who warned of dire consequences.

Former US Congressman Ron Paul, an outspoken anti-interventionist, denounced in an interview with Russia Today the plans, noting that these Western-backed forces have been “helpful to ISIS.”‬‪

“The FSA turned over the weapons, that we (the US) sent them, to ISIS,” Paul said. “It is pretty well recorded that for $50,000 the FSA turned over one of the two American journalists to ISIS.”‬‪

Meanwhile, Gulf state Qatar, with the help of the US, has already been covertly training so-called "moderate” Syria rebels to fight the Syrian army and ISIS group as well as other extremist groups for over a year, sources claimed in November.

The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia's border and Udeid area, the largest US air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants and other so-called moderate rebels, the sources said.

A report by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists in Syria as well appear to be using US military-issued arms and weapons supplied to rebels by Saudi Arabia.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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