Former MİT official sentenced to 20 years for abducting defected Syrian colonel

October 10, 2013, Thursday/ 12:58:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Verdicts have been announced for five suspects, one of whom was a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) official, who were charged with having links to the abduction of Syrian defectors in September 2012, sentencing the former MİT official to 20 years.

Former MİT official Önder Sığırcıkoğlu, businessmen Erdoğan Ayhan Kit and Mete Aslan and two employees working for Aslan -- Mehmet Nur and Yılmaz Nur -- were arrested on Feb. 10, 2012 for their involvement in abducting Syrian opposition colonels in exchange for $100,000.

MİT Adana regional chief N.B. and Hatay regional chief M.A.A., who were allegedly in contact with Sığırcıkoğlu at the time of the abduction, were later added to the scope of the investigation.

The seven defendants, three of whom were MİT officials, had been charged with “restricting a person's freedom and abusing confidential government documents, using them for spying.” In the verdict announced on Wednesday, the MİT Hatay regional chief was acquitted in the trial, while the case against the MİT Adana regional chief was dropped since the presidency did not consent to the investigation. Other defendants were given from eight to 20 years on charges of spying. The court sentenced Sığırcıkoğlu to 20 years, businessmen Kit and Aslan to 16 years and six months each and Mehmet Nur and Yılmaz Nur to eight years and four months each.

Three MİT officials, including Sığırcıkoğlu, were arrested in 2012 for their suspected involvement in the September 2011 abduction of Syrian military defectors Maj. Mustafa Kassum and Col. Mustafa Harmush. Kassum and Harmush were handed over to Syrian security forces after they were kidnapped from a refugee camp in Altınözü in Hatay province, near the Syrian border. They had defected in June of that year.

Harmush, one of the most senior Syrian military officers to have defected to the opposition, was abducted from a Turkish refugee camp in Hatay province and handed over to pro-Bashar al-Assad forces in Syria.

After Sığırcıkoğlu was arrested by the court, MİT dismissed him and he was transferred to the Ministry of Customs and Trade, which later appointed him as a customs officer at the Turkish-Syrian border gate in Hatay. This appointment was met with public outcry and was described as a scandal in the Turkish media. Sığırcıkoğlu was recently appointed to the Afyon Directorate of Customs Enforcement.

The other MİT officials facing the same charges as Sığırcıkoğlu were MİT Adana regional chief N.B. and Hatay regional chief M.A.A., who were released in 2012 and acquitted in Wednesday's verdict.

After the abduction of Harmush, his family reportedly went to the Altınözü district governor to find out what had happened to him. Before his abduction, Harmush had told his family he was going to meet with Sığırcıkoğlu. The last piece of evidence caught by surveillance cameras was Harmush getting into a vehicle. After examining the car's license plate, police found that the car belonged to MİT. The district governor then called MİT regional chief M.A.A. and asked about Harmush. M.A.A. informed Sığırcıkoğlu that he had been caught on camera as Harmush was getting into his car and said the district governor had called the MİT regional office.

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