Metin Külünk, a close confidant of the Turkish president, was investigated as a suspect in Islamist terrorist group the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front (İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncıları Cephesi, İBDA/C or IBDA-C), documents obtained by Nordic Monitor show.
According to a secret report drafted by Interior Ministry inspectors, the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court ruled on September 5, 2007 to authorize the wiretapping of Külünk’s phone in decision No. 2007/4540. The request filed with the court by the intelligence department of the National Security Directorate stated that the wiretap was necessary for decoding the IBDA-C network in Turkey.
The secret document that shows a Turkish court authorized a wiretap on Külünk. It also reveals that the officials who investigated him were later punished by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:
The IBDA-C, listed as terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States and known for a militant, fundamentalist stance sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has recruited Turkish jihadists to fight in Syria. Külünk’s alleged association with the group is not surprising given the fact that he was prosecuted for involvement with the Islamist Akincilar (Raiders) group in the late 1970s and early ’80s. According to court documents dating to those years from an investigation into Akıncılar, Külünk was operating in the third cell of the armed unit of the Raiders and was responsible for guns and armed operations.
According to witness statements included in the indictment, he led the armed wing. When police raided a group of 30 to 35 people who were reported to be receiving arms training in a highland area called Demirciler Yaylası in Bolu province on July 12, 1979, they found a handgun and dynamite blocks on Külünk.
In recent years Külünk has functioned as one of the key operatives who provided money to a right-wing gang called Osmanen Germania in Germany to purchase weapons, organize protests and target critics of the Turkish leader. He was also involved in supporting the Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD), which was renamed the Union of International Democrats” (UID), in Europe.
The secret investigation into Külünk that was launched by the National Security Directorate in 2007 was later squelched by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his childhood friend. He was also provided with legislative cover when Erdoğan made him a three-term member of parliament representing Istanbul for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In fact, all the investigators whose signatures and initials appeared in court and police documents were punished by the Erdoğan government with dismissal and/or imprisonment in 2015. Veteran police chiefs Recep Güven, Coşkun Çakar, Lokman Kırcalı, Ali Poyraz, Mehmet Kalaycı and Serkan Şahan and police officer Ali Güler were fired, with some ending up in jail on false allegations of illegal eavesdropping and others fleeing Turkey to escape prosecution on fabricated charges.
The IBDA-C claimed responsibility for a range of terrorist acts in Turkey including what authorities said was a joint plot with al-Qaeda in conducting the 2003 İstanbul bombings of two synagogues, an HSBC bank branch and the British Consulate General, and the 2008 attack on the US Consulate General in İstanbul as well as the killings of dozens of people in the 1990s. Although the group’s leader, Salih İzzet Erdiş, popularly known by his followers as commandant Salih Mirzabeyoğlu, was arrested for leading an armed terrorist group in December 1998 and sentenced to an aggravated life sentence, Islamists in the government including President Erdoğan and his associates intervened on his behalf, vouching for the İBDA-C leader.
Then-Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ even petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeals on behalf of the government to overturn his conviction, and Erdoğan publicly commented on the urgency of his release on several occasions. When he was finally released on July 23, 2014 under immense pressure from the government — which had already taken control of the judiciary in the aftermath of corruption scandals in December 2013 that implicated Erdoğan and some members of his family — Mirzabeyoğlu was personally collected from the prison gate of the Bolu high security prison by İhsan Ağcan, the deputy mayor of the city from the governing AKP, accompanied by dozens of people chanting “God is the greatest” with fireworks in the background. In his first public comments to reporters at a restaurant immediately after he was released from jail, Mirzabeyoğlu expressed surprise over his release and thanked Erdoğan and Bozdağ for their interest in his case.
Erdoğan personally called to congratulate him on the day he was released and later received him in his İstanbul office for a one-on-one meeting, on Nov. 29, 2014. Describing him as his brother, then-Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler, the government’s pointman on the clandestine task of driving an Islamist agenda in the Middle East and North Africa, also hailed his release.The group has reportedly been given resources from the government to run the network. In his first public event after his release, Mirzabeyoğlu appeared at a conference at the Haliç Congress Center, a major conference venue owned by the government. Mirzabeyoğlu passed away in May 2018, but his network is very much alive and is in fact expanding.
The Baran journal, affiliated with the İBDA-C, is advertised by the pro-Erdoğan Star daily and distributed by the Turkuvaz distribution network, which is owned by Erdoğan’s family. Yakup Köse, another İBDA-C member convicted of involvement in a bomb attack at the age of 14, is currently working as a columnist for Star. He was also charged and convicted of inciting a mutiny in Bandırma Prison in 2000. As in the case of Mirzabeyoğlu, Bozdağ also intervened on behalf of Köse, whose case was appealed.
The biggest boost the Islamist government has provided for the group was the appointment of Hasan Ölçer, an İBDA-C sympathizer and Mirzabeyoğlu’s lawyer, as caretaker to lead the İpek Media Group, the third-largest media group in Turkey, after its unlawful takeover by the government on trumped-up charges. Ölçer has been tried in a court of law for allegedly producing a counterfeit document on behalf of his client Mirzabeyoğlu. He also represented the criminal known as Carlos the Jackal, who is currently serving a life sentence in France for the 1975 murder of an informant for the French government and two French counterintelligence agents. In a 2011 protest rally speech he led in front of the French Consulate General in İstanbul in defense of Carlos, Ölçer described him as a “symbol of the honorable struggle against imperialism and Zionism.”
Mirzabeyoğlu first started out as a publisher in the mid-1970s and later organized the İBDA-C in 1984, using a cell-based approach. The group has brought a radical interpretation to the literature and teachings of Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, the late renowned Turkish poet and writer, and introduced the element of violence and armed struggle as legitimate tools for the Islamist ideology. The group is organized based on independent cells composed of several people who boast the individual belief of “self-induced manifestation,” which does not require a hierarchy or central orders to move against a target. İBDA-C members are led to believe in an eventual mass uprising disrupting the established order in Turkey and the world. Each and every member is tasked with waging a militia-type war on every platform to foment chaos, stir up rebellion and destroy institutions.
The group operates on two fronts. One is composed of legal activities such as publications, websites, conferences, gatherings and exhibitions that serve as a conduit to propagate ideas and guide the members on İBDA-C ideology. For example, the magazine Akademya continues to be published in digital format on the Internet. Just a quick survey of the website is enough to reveal the extremist ideology the group members subscribe to. On the website, Osama bin Laden, the late leader of al-Qaeda, is glorified and his death is considered to be martyrdom. The US, the UK and Israel are considered the greatest terrorists. The government’s entrusting of the İpek Media Group to the care of the İBDA-C lawyer will likely broaden the group’s propaganda machine.
On the illegal front, İBDA-C cells are usually composed of three to five people and operate independently of each other. They decide on the target, timing and tactics and later inform the publication of their plans, performance and results. Since their capacity, resources and manpower are limited, cell members search for sensational attacks that will generate more news bytes. Media outlets, minority groups and mosques that belong to hostile groups and foreign embassies are natural targets. For example, the 1997 attack on a bookstand that sold Christian books in Gaziantep was claimed by the İBDA-C. It claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Free and Accepted Masons Grand Lodge Association’s building in Yakacık near Kartal in İstanbul. Turkish police had to round up close to a dozen suspects during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey in 2006 after learning of an alleged plot by the İBDA-C.
There is no doubt that the group has shown a tendency to exaggerate its strength and even claim responsibility for attacks that it had nothing to do with. It had not been able to develop into a formidable threat to Turkey’s security due to constant vigilance and crackdowns by law enforcement agencies at least until 2011, when the Turkish Islamist government started to cozy up to practically all fanatical groups that are willing to fight to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) then-parliamentary group deputy chairman Ali Topuz claimed in 2003 that Erdoğan was one of the original leaders of the İBDA-C. He also alleged that convicted felons from the group were employed by the İstanbul Municipality when Erdoğan was mayor of the city. Erdoğan denied the allegations.