Turkey: Muslim cleric who incited Muslim to murder Russian ambassador still preaching, with protection from Erdogan

Not a friend. Not an ally. Turkey should be expelled from NATO immediately.

“Vahdet group’s jihadist cleric continues to radicalize many in Turkey,” by Abdullah Bozkurt, Nordic Monitor, March 3, 2019 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):

A radical imam whose teachings have influenced many jihadists including the killer of the Russian ambassador to Turkey continues to preach freely with protection provided by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Nordic Monitor research identified Hüsnü Aktaş, a 69-year-old cleric who was jailed several times in the past for radical activities, as one of the influencers in the circle of Turkish jihadists who helped radicalize many including Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, the 22-year-old police officer who gunned down Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov on Dec. 19, 2016 in the Turkish capital.

The revelations did not come as a surprise given the fact that the foundation run by Aktaş was previously charged with aiding and abetting a Chechen group that hijacked a ferry as it was about to depart the Black Sea province of Trabzon for Sochi in January 1996. The indictment filed at the time against Aktaş and his Vahdet (Unity) Foundation in 1997 showed that the hijackers — identified Turkish nationals Muhammed Emin Tokcan, Tuncer Özcan, Sedat Temiz, Erdinç Tekir, Ertan Coşkun and Ceyhan Molla Mehmetoğlu; Abkhazian national Roki Gitsba; and Chechen nationals Ramazan Zubareyev and Viskhan Abdurrahmanov – received help from the foundation.

Chechen and Turkish hijackers kept passengers and crewmembers on board the ferry as hostages.

The hijackers kept 177 passengers and 55 crewmembers on board the ferry as hostages and diverted the ferry to Istanbul to publicize the situation of Chechens in Russia and demand the release of Chechen fighters under siege by Russian forces. All the suspects were arrested after the 72-hour crisis was resolved with no causalities except that harbor security chief Rahmi Tunca was shot in the leg by the militants. The suspects were tried and convicted, but most broke out of prison under suspicious circumstances.

Aktaş’s name was brought up again during the investigation into the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey where an al-Qaeda-inspired police officer gunned down the envoy in a cold-blooded murder at an art event. It turned out the reclusive police officer had attended one of Aktaş’s sermons. Yet this dangerous cleric was not listed in the Karlov indictment as a suspect but rather testified as a witness. In his statement to the prosecutor, he claimed he did not remember the Russian envoy’s killer attending any of his lectures but admitted that one of his students named Mustafa Akalın later came to him and apologized for bringing the killer to a gathering. He also said he did not remember what he preached when Altıntaş came to his sermon.

Enes Asım Silin, a 30-year old Turkish al-Qaeda militant and suspect in the Karlov case, told a different story about Aktaş, however. In a statement he provided on Jan. 18, 2017, Silin recounted a conversation with the assassin who told him about the talk he had with cleric Aktaş. In his conversation with Altıntaş, Aktaş urged him to resign from the police force, saying that working as a police officer was incompatible with religious principles. Silin is a senior figure in the Turkish al-Qaeda network and one of the board members of the Global Humanitarian Aid and Political Training Center (Küresel İnsani Yardım ve Siyasi Eğitim Merkezi, or KİSEM), which is a front NGO run by İbrahim Şen, a former Gitmo detainee and a convicted senior al-Qaeda militant.

The Erdoğan government hushed up the 2014 probe into al-Qaeda and released all the suspects from custody including Silin, Halis Bayancuk (known by his assumed name of Abu Hanzala) and Şen. The probe revealed how Şen worked as a trafficker and supplier for al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist groups in Syria through close coordination with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT). Embarrassed by the exposé, the Erdoğan government purged all investigators and prosecutors in this al-Qaeda case and jailed most of them on trumped-up charges. Both Bayancuk and Şen were later rearrested in a separate case. Their trials are pending and will likely result in their release, as has happened several times in the past….

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