26 suspects, including 9 officers, detained in espionage gang crackdown
(Photo: Today's Zaman)
Twenty-six people, including nine active duty military officers, were taken into custody on Thursday as part of an operation launched in the western province of İzmir against a military espionage gang.
The suspects are accused of involvement in the gang as well as prostitution, blackmail and espionage. The operation was carried out by the İzmir Police Department's Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crimes Unit early in the morning. News sources said the gang is headed by a 25-year-old woman who studies at Pamukkale University in Denizli. The gang is accused of hiring foreign women as prostitutes for military officers from whom they gained military information and then selling that information on to third parties. The gang is based in İzmir and reportedly has branches in a number of Turkish provinces, including İstanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Antalya, Muğla, Manisa, Zonguldak and Ordu.
The operation started around one-and-a-half years ago after a specially authorized prosecutor ordered electronic and physical surveillance of the suspects. Police said two colonels, a lieutenant colonel and a major are among the detained officers. Arrest warrants were issued for two other suspects, according to police sources. Police did not say if the two suspects were military officers.
A large number of military documents and other materials were seized at locations searched by the police. Among the materials were CDs that show intimate relations of military officers with foreign women hired by the gang.
The detained officers were initially interrogated by prosecutors at the İzmir Central Command. All suspects were expected to be sent to an İzmir court for arrest by the time Today's Zaman went to print.
An espionage gang nested within the naval forces was discovered last year. The gang was accused of establishing a prostitution ring to extract vital state security information from high-ranking officers and senior bureaucrats through the use of blackmail for the purpose of selling sensitive information to foreign intelligence services. Currently more than 50 suspects are standing trial on charges of prostitution, espionage and blackmail.
Police seize ‘cosmic' info, documents of categorization
During their search at the addresses of suspected members of the gang, police also seized confidential documents kept in military facilities dubbed the “cosmic room” and documents prepared by high-level military officers in the past that categorize members of the military according to their religious and ideological backgrounds.
Police also uncovered a military uniform and a military ID at the house of the suspected leader of the gang. The leader reportedly introduced herself as a noncommissioned officer to other military officers and easily had access to military facilities.
A detailed examination is under way into the documents seized as part of the operation.