US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said on Tuesday that the US Justice Department has the authority to pursue a legal case against the far-left terrorist organization in Turkey that claimed responsibility for Friday's suicide bomb attack on the US embassy in Ankara.
“We can open a case against the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). It might be a secret indictment,” he said, stressing that Turkish and American officials have been working together to develop the best evidence to hold up in court in an effort to go after the terrorist organization.
Recalling that US law allows authorities to go after conspirators beyond American borders, the ambassador said the US can step up international cooperation in prosecuting the DHKP/C terrorist organization. “The DHKP/C is not ashamed of it [the attack]. They brag about it. Your government has a lot of evidence [against the group]. We can use that evidence to build a case that will hold up in the courtroom,” he explained.
Ricciardone underlined that the attack renewed the US's determination to work together and coordinate efforts with an ally to defeat a common enemy. “We are in intense cooperation with intelligence, law enforcement officials and the justice department to step up what has been excellent cooperation and to bring that cooperation to a level that the US engages in with its best allies in the world,” he explained to a group of reporters at his residence.
Recalling that FBI teams were on the ground within 48 hours of the incident, Ricciardone said forensic experts from both the FBI and Turkish police are working together to develop strong evidence against the DHKP/C.
He said the embassy did not receive a specific threat warning in advance from the Turkish government but said the US was aware of a general warning with regard to the terrorist organization as well as of arrests made recently in connection to operations against the group. “We wish to do even more concerning this particular group,” he said, adding that the DHKP/C has been on the US terror list for years.
The ambassador vowed that the US will bring the full scope of the law to bare on the terrorist organization, including prosecution that protects the rights of those involved. Pointing out that Turkish laws, especially its anti-terror law, have some shortcomings that are also acknowledged by Turkish officials, he said the US is ready to assist Turkey in addressing these deficiencies and strengthen the capacity of Turkey to fight terrorism.
The attacker on Friday detonated explosives strapped to his body, as well as a hand grenade, inside a gatehouse on the perimeter of the US Embassy, killing himself and a Turkish security guard and critically wounding a journalist.
“We are not in a blame game here”, the US ambassador emphasized, in response to a question of whether Turkish agencies failed to prevent the attack. “It is always possible to improve intelligence and law enforcement,” the ambassador remarked, praising the Turkish police's quick response to the attack. He indicated that they will draw lessons from the incident. Ricciardone noted that both the US and Turkey have suffered a lot from terrorism.
Speaking on the Patriot deployment in Turkey against the missile threat from Syria, the US ambassador said, “This was intended as concrete support from and solidarity with NATO.” The ambassador's remarks were interpreted as a response to the DHKP/C's claim that the attack was planned as a response to the US policy towards Syria, among others.
The US envoy said the draft law on the prevention of the financing of terrorism, which currently sits on the agenda of the General Assembly in Parliament, is a good way to start addressing some of the shortcomings that exist in Turkish legislation. He made it clear that the draft bill in current form has not fully met the expectations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a unit of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The US ambassador also announced that his government wants to locate the embassy in a new place with a new building for both safety and functionality reasons.
Commenting on the government-launched talks with the jailed leader of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to pave the way for the PKK's disarmament, the US ambassador said Washington can only give moral support to these talks and a consistent message to the PKK leader that the group needs to give up armed struggle. “We have professed total solidarity with Turkey against the PKK as long as the PKK remains an armed group,” he vowed.
With regard to Turkey's engagement in northern Iraq, Ricciardone said the US prefers Turkey deal directly with the central government in Baghdad. “Turkey can get access to 100 percent of oil and gas in the entire country, not just 20 percent,” he said. The US's top diplomat in Turkey acknowledged that the political atmosphere in Baghdad is very difficult to work with but emphasized that there is “no other option.” As for Syria, the ambassador stated that the US has increased financial support to Syrian refugees.