An influential political operative who was recently elected chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) provincial organization in Istanbul was under surveillance for his links to a terrorist group, confidential documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
Osman Nuri Kabaktepe was monitored by police intelligence over his alleged links to the Muslim Youth Organization (Müslüman Gençlik Örgütü), a group that functioned as a breeding ground for armed jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda.
The documents indicate that police intelligence started monitoring Kabaktepe's Gmail and Hotmail accounts on August 29, 2011. The wiretap request submitted to the court listed Kabaktepe as a suspect who was linked to the Muslim Youth terror group.
Apparently, the police picked up information to warrant the surveillance of Kabaktepe as part of an investigation to prevent possible terrorist attacks. It filed a motion with the court under the "preventive intelligence gathering" authority, which allows the Security General Directorate (Emniyet) intelligence service to learn about terrorist plots in advance and thwart criminal acts before they occur.
The surveillance record on Kabaktepe was listed in an inspection report that reviewed warrants for both preventive intelligence gathering and prosecutorial criminal investigation, both of which required advance authorization from a judge. The inspection report, dated February 3, 2017, was sent to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office by the intelligence unit.
A separate document, classified as secret and submitted to the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court as supporting evidence for a wiretap warrant on October 3, 2012, explained how the Muslim Youth group was considered to be a dangerous organization that was monitored by intelligence.
According to the intelligence file, the group first emerged in 1985-1986 among university students who were protesting the government's headscarf ban. It was established by a radical figure named Tahir Gul, who studied at Istanbul Technical University between 1985 and 1992. The aim was to set up a religious shariah state and dismantle the secular and democratic structure of the country's governance.
Their members seized opportunities to make a name for themselves by exploiting divisive issues among the public, organizing rallies right after Friday prayers and leading youth protests. Three suspects — Harun İlhan, Adnan Ersöz and Baki Yiğit, who were arrested after the deadly al-Qaeda terror attacks in İstanbul in 2003 in which two synagogues, an HSBC bank branch and the British Consulate General were bombed — were members of the Muslim Youth organization according to the file. They were groomed to be al-Qaeda militants under the umbrella of Muslim Youth.
The attacks killed 58 people and left more than 600 injured. It was the largest terrorist act in Turkey at the time. Both İlhan and Ersöz were part of the five-member secret Shura Council (consultative body) that was involved in every step of the planning of the attacks. They were in the senior leadership of al-Qaeda's Turkish network and were sending candidates for arms and explosives training in Afghanistan.
İlhan and Yiğit were convicted and sentenced to aggravated life by the Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court. Ersöz was also convicted and sent to prison to serve a life sentence. The convictions were upheld by the 9th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Interestingly enough, Turkish intelligence discovered connections between Iran's Islamist Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Turkish network, Selam Tevhid, and the Muslim Youth Organization. It appeared both organizations had a mutual interest in undermining the secular and democratic system in Turkey and replacing it with a religious regime run by mullahs.
In fact, both Ersöz and Yiğit used Iran as a transit hub to go to Afghanistan to talk to the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden just before the 9/11 attacks in New York. In the meeting held in Kandahar, bin Laden reportedly told them that he had Turkish links on his grandparents' side.
Many members of the Quds Force Turkish cells were arrested in Turkey in the late 1990s, and they were tried and convicted for murders and terrorist acts. Most of them were later released under an amnesty granted by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and continued their nefarious activities. A fresh investigation into the Quds Force in 2011 was later hushed up by the Erdoğan government, and the prosecutors, judges and police chiefs who investigated the Iranian spy network were punished with dismissal, imprisonment and prosecution on false charges.
Kabaktepe appears to have escaped the long arm of the criminal justice system and law enforcement thanks to the political cover provided by Erdoğan. He was in the number two position at the Maarif Foundation, a Turkish government entity funded by Turkish taxpayers in order to promote the political Islamist agenda abroad through schools.
He was a perfect choice for Erdoğan's global ambitions considering the fact that Kabaktepe had substantial experience as the head of the youth branches in the religious Felicity (Saadet) Party, the Turkish equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood that was established by the late Necmettin Erbakan, the founding father of political Islam in Turkey. He graduated from a faculty of theology after completing religious high school in his hometown of Fatsa in northern Ordu province on the Black Sea coast.
He is also vice president of an Islamist outfit called Cihannüma Dayanışma ve İşbirliği Platformu Derneği (Cihannüma Association for Solidarity and Cooperation Platform), which is headquartered in Istanbul. Cihannüma acts as a revolving door for young ideologues who have been selected for government positions based on ideological zealotry rather than merit. The organization has close links to Hamas in Gaza, hosted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Istanbul and worked with Jihad Ya'amur, the Hamas representative in Turkey who was considered by Israel to be a terrorist for his role in the abduction of an IDF soldier who was later killed during a rescue attempt.
Another organization that Kabaktepe works closely with is controversial charity group the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH), a pro-government Islamist organization that was accused of smuggling arms to al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in Syria and Libya and acts as a hub for installing religious fanatics and zealots in government jobs with the help of the Turkish president's family enterprise. The IHH works with the Turkish intelligence agency and acts as a tool in the hands of the Erdoğan government.
He has shares and interests in multiple companies that operate in numerous fields from mining to cyber security and has partners from Saudi Arabia to Sudan.
Abdullah Bozkurt, a Middle East Forum Writing Fellow, is a Swedish-based investigative journalist and analyst who runs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network and is chairman of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.