By Levent Kenez
Source: Turkey-ISIS Research Project
A prosecutor ordered the release of a wanted Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suspect and his accomplice who were detained by the police in a stolen car with a signal jammer and fake license plate.
The incident took place on December 3, 2019 in İstanbul after the police had stopped a suspicious car in the Bakırköy district during a regular security check, determining that one of the two passengers was a wanted ISIS suspect and that the stolen car had a fake license plate. The police immediately detained the two men, identified as Mehmet B. (37) and Selahattin D. (47), and took them to the police station.
The police also found a mini high-tech signal jammer in the car used by auto thieves to prevent the driver from locking the doors, one of the ways terrorist groups also steal cars for nefarious purposes.
Once the police officers discovered that Mehmet B. was a wanted ISIS suspect, they contacted the prosecutor’s office. Aprosecutor from the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court called the police and ordered them to release the detainees without even bringing them to the courthouse for questioning, Nordic Monitor has learned.
It is still unknown why the prosecutor ordered the release of suspects linked to ISIS who were driving a stolen car and were apparently suspected of preparing to carry out terrorist acts.
The Turkish judiciary, which is controlled by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is lenient when it comes to investigating and prosecuting jihadist groups. The Erdoğan government drew criticism for its forgiving attitude towards ISIS given the fact that hundreds of local and foreign fighters are believed to have returned to Turkey following its military incursion into Syria in October.
In another incident on October 29, 2019 the police reportedly detained three ISIS suspects in İstanbul who were planing to explode a car bomb against a foreign target in retaliation for the death of former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
ISIS has carried out out numerous terrorist acts with cars bombs in northern Syria and Iraq against Kurdish and Syrian government forces thanks to its “car bomb factories” located in the region. According to reports in the Turkish media, thousands of vehicles, in particular pick-up trucks, stolen in Turkey have been smuggled into the region by ISIS since 2014.
ISIS has mostly used suicide bombers in Turkey, killing more than 200 people since 2014. However, three police officers were killed and 18 people wounded in a car bomb attack by ISIS on May 1, 2016 in Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey, close to the Syrian border.
Turkey has released hundreds of ISIS prisoners from Turkish jails in the last year and a half, according to Nordic Monitor’s review of various official figures provided by Turkish leaders
According to the latest figures, only 95 Turks have thus far been convicted on ISIS charges despite the fact that thousands have been detained in nationwide sweeps every year, suggesting that most were quickly released and charges dropped after brief detentions.
From January to November of this year alone, 2,782 suspected members of ISIS were detained by authorities, but only 843 were arrested and put in pretrial detention. Most are expected to be freed and the charges dropped, resulting in a dismal conviction rate.
In fact, according to Justice Ministry data, only 422 Turks are currently imprisoned in Turkey on ISIS charges. Of these, 95 were convicted, and their convictions were successfully upheld on appeal. One hundred thirty-eight suspects who were sentenced by courts of first instance are still awaiting the outcome of their appeals. The trials of 138 ISIS suspects are still ongoing.