The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hushed up an investigation into a terrorist smuggling network operated in Turkey by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, which was using it to send operatives to Europe for terror and intelligence activities.
According to classified documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, the investigation into the smuggling outfit was launched after credible intelligence was passed to Turkey by Israel’s Mossad on April 9, 2013. The intelligence sounded alarm bells about possible plots to attack Israeli and Jewish targets in Europe and Turkey by the Quds Force, and the operatives to be used in launching attacks were being moved through terrorist smuggling network. The National Security Directorate (Emniyet) forwarded the intelligence to the Istanbul Police Department for investigation. The police investigators in Istanbul conducted a preliminary probe into the names mentioned in the intel which appeared to have checked out.
The report, stamped secret and sent to the relevant agencies by Istanbul police intelligence chief Ahmet Öztürk on April 20, 2013, the terrorist smuggling network was led by a 37-year-old Afghan national named Mir Agha Karimi Sayed Karim. Mir Agha and his men were moving people from the Middle East to Europe, with destination countries including Greece, Belgium, Romania and Germany. Turkish nationals Reşat Gümüşyaka and Ethem Tahaoğlu produced forged travel documents, while a man named Uncle Halo and an Afghan national by the name of Reza provided temporary shelter for people in transit. There were several people named, both Turkish and Afghan, who had worked in various capacities in the network.
A two-page intelligence report that showed Quds Force operatives were using a terrorist smuggling network to send terrorists to Europe:IRGC_Europe
The Istanbul police were already on alert for the activities of such a network even before the intelligence was received from Israel. For example, on May 27, 2012 an airport police officer detained a man who claimed to be a Danish national named Lars Klarskov Jorgensen on suspicion that his passport might be forged based on the photo in the passport and the entry stamp. When he was frisked, police found an Iranian passport, issued in Baghdad by Iranian counsellor Babak Jahandideh, under the name of Muhammed Reza Najjariyan Kermani, and fake entry and exit stamps. He was referred to the prosecutor’s office on forgery charges and released under a travel ban pending criminal investigation.
In his statement as a suspect Kerani admitted how he entered Turkey, connected with a network run by Iranian nationals in Istanbul to obtain the forged passport and seals and claimed he was heading to Europe as an economic migrant for a better life. The police lab verified that the documents were forged. The airport police who referred to him to court for arraignment also informed the counterterrorism department the next day about the incident on the suspicion that the person might be involved with a terrorist network.
As soon as the Turkish investigators who were running the Quds Force investigation got wind of this incident, they added the investigation file on Kerani to the main probe into Quds Force activities in Turkey, which had been ongoing since 2010. They thought Kerani’s forged passport might be the work of the Quds Force operation and wanted to check it out further.
The passport of Muhammed Reza Najjariyan Kermani, who tried to use a forged Danish passport under the name of Lars Klarskov Jorgensen:Reza_Najjariyan_Kermani_passport
As the investigation moved deeper into the Quds Force, the police through wiretaps, surveillance and seized materials from suspects had collected an overwhelming body of evidence that incriminated senior government officials including chief aides of Turkish President Erdoğan, then prime minister, and head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan, who had become close to the main suspect in the case, Hüseyin Avni Yazıcıoğlu, a convicted felon who had served time for terror inks to Iran’s secret service.
As soon as the Erdoğan government became aware of the secret judicial investigation into the Quds Force in February 2014, it moved quickly to quash the probe before the prosecutor had a chance to wrap up the investigation, order the detention of the suspects and file an indictment. The prosecutor and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation were sacked, and some were later jailed on fabricated charges to send a message to the judiciary and law enforcement agencies that the Quds Force network in Turkey was off limits.
A two-page police expert report identifying the forged passport and seals:Police_expert_report_forged_passport
However, the evidence collected over the years on the IRGC Quds Force, their operatives in Turkey, some apparently working under diplomatic cover out of the Iranian Embassy and consulates, and their Turkish assets remained a major headache for the Erdoğan government. In order to downplay the significance of the evidence, the new prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, a pro-Iran Islamist specially selected by the Erdoğan government to kill the investigation into the IRGC Quds Force and whitewash the crimes of senior Turkish officials, started working to undermine the original probe. The detention of Kerani at the airport was classified as an isolated incident on April 21, 2015 by Kayhan Ay, a newly appointed counterterrorism police chief in Istanbul, who coordinated law enforcement action with Fidan to exonerate Quds Force suspects.
Although the original probe into the IRGC Quds Force was undermined, a separate police investigation filed by the investigating prosecutor at the time under the terrorist smuggling probe as case file No.2013/65407 moved forward, with the police identifying 27 suspects in the network on March 6, 2014. The police managed to expose most suspects in the initial probe before the case was taken away from them.
The suspects in the terrorist smuggling network run by Iran’s IRGC Quds Force:smugglers_suspects
According to the file summary, the suspects were listed as Mir Ağha, Siyavash Abazarishamzari, Peiman Haddaran, Reşat Gümüşkaya, Ethem Tahaoğlu, Ahmet Çomak, Ahmdi Al, Veysi Çetin, Azizullah Niazai, Mehmet Faruk Öztürk, Gürgin Tufan, Mehmet Şah Çakar, İrfan Yoncalar, Yakup Yaka, Murat Karaman, Şevval Celali, Gökmen Koç, Vahidullah Satari, Rüstem Raşit Şerbetçi, Özkan Özyurt, Niyazi Yalçın, Mirbagheri Sayedhassein, Rasoul Ghalinezhad, Erhan Sezgin, Ferhat Faegheh, Ruslan Labadze and Muhammedi Shari Arabedidze.
However, when prosecutor Fidan leaked the confidential probe into the Quds Force in February 2014 to the pro-government media as part of the Erdoğan government’s spin campaign to discredit the investigation, Iranian operatives in the smuggling outfit as well as those who were surveilled and wiretapped in the main IRGC Quds Force probe fled Turkey. The belated police operation on September 9, 2014 on the human smuggling outfit managed to detain 16 people, and only five were formally arrested pending trial while the rest were let go.
Only a few were detained in the terrorist smuggling network after the government undermined the probe:smuggler_IRGC_network_detention
Defending himself in court on dubious charges filed by Fidan, veteran police chief investigator Ensar Doğan, who was part of the team that investigated the IRGC Quds Force network, said he and others on the team had done their jobs by the book and investigated the deadly terror network run by the Iranian secret service. He asked the court on August 26, 2016 to obtain a copy of the terrorist smuggling investigation from the Istanbul prosecutor’s office, but his motion was rejected a week later on the grounds that the case file was not related to the Quds Force probe.
He was imprisoned on fabricated charges in July 2014 and released in September 2019 pending trial. However many police officers who were involved in the IRGC Quds Force probe are still in jail today. Fidan, who hushed up the probe, was rewarded by the government and promoted to chief prosecutor in Istanbul.
Prosecutor Irfan Fidan, who killed the investigation into the IRGC Quds Force:Irfan_fidan_IRGC_probe_inquiry