Hatay Chief Public Prosecutor Adem Yazar said in a statement on Monday that an investigation was launched after a tip-off that a Syrian colonel currently residing in a tent city in the village of Apaydın, located in Hatay province, was going to be abducted and handed over to Syrian authorities. The statement said counterterrorism units from the Hatay Police Department detained three suspects as part of the investigation and that they have all been referred to the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for interrogation.
The incident is reminiscent of the September abduction of Syrian military defectors Mustafa Kassum and Col. Hussein Harmush. Kassum and Harmush were handed over to Syrian security forces after they were kidnapped from a refugee camp in Altınözü, Hatay province, near the Syrian border. They defected in June.
The case of Harmush became a top priority for investigators after the Syrian League for Human Rights reported on Jan. 30 that Harmush had been executed by the regime’s security forces. “An air force intelligence unit last week carried out a sentence to shoot dead officer Hussein Harmush,” the nongovernmental group reported at the time.
Upon escaping to Turkey in June, Harmush became the first high-ranking Syrian military officer to declare his opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing crackdown of a then largely peaceful protest movement.
During his exile, Harmush established the Brigade of Free Officers, a group of army deserters who later became part of the Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition group headed by defected Syrian Col. Riyadh al-Asaad.