Four MİT officials are suspected of involvement in the September abduction of Syrian military defectors Mustafa Kassum and Col. Hussein Harmush. Kassum and Harmush were handed over to the Syrian security forces after they were kidnapped from a refugee camp in Altınözü, Hatay province, near the Syrian border. They had defected in June.
When the abduction first appeared in the media, top MİT regional agent M. A. A. informed MİT official Ö. S. that he had been caught on camera at the refugee camp. His conversation with Ö. S. was recorded by police.
The prosecutor requested an arrest warrant from the court for MİT Adana regional chief N. B. and Hatay regional chief M. A. A. After the demand by the prosecutor, the two individuals were transferred to MİT headquarters in Ankara for protection from investigation.
The move on the part of the prosecutor's office follows an amendment made to the MİT law last month that stipulates that permission must be secured from the prime minister before the launch of an investigation into intelligence officials.
The government pressed ahead with the amendment after MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and four other top MİT officers were summoned to testify by the İstanbul specially authorized prosecutor in early February.
Only if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gives permission will the investigation of the four MİT officials, who were allegedly involved in the abduction case, be possible.
After the abduction of Harmush, his family 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 Ö. S. The last thing cameras caught 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 Ö. S. that he had been caught on camera while Harmush was getting into his car and said the district governor had called the MİT regional office.
Ö. S. was wiretapped by police by court order and was caught talking about the developments to other members of the team that abducted Harmush.
The international media speculated that MİT had abducted the defector. However, MİT told the Turkish Foreign Ministry that the institution had nothing to do with the abduction case. The Foreign Ministry therefore denied claims by the international media.
According to media reports, before the abduction of Harmush, MİT issued a warning to the police that Harmush was planning to escape from the camp. In a confidential note sent to the Hatay Police Department, the MİT Hatay regional office stated that verifiable intelligence indicated that Harmush was planning to escape to Gaziantep.
However, on the day of the abduction, MİT official Ö.S. took Harmush from the camp in a car belonging to MİT and went to Samandağı Çevlik on the Mediterranean coast, where the colonel was turned over to Syrian officials. Another car carrying Harmush's phone was sent to Gaziantep in order to misdirect the police.
By doing this, MİT aimed to make the police think that Harmush was going to Gaziantep. MİT officials knew that police would follow Harmush's phone signals because of the note they had sent about Harmush's alleged escape plans. Police discovered the truth when they stopped the car in Gaziantep.
It also emerged that MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan went to Hatay with a group of intelligence officers in December to talk with local governors. On Dec. 3 and 4, Fidan visited Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz. Most probably he talked about the abductions, but the content of the meeting still remains a mystery.
The abduction of Col. Harmush and Maj. Kassum creates questions about the safety of Syrian refugees. Harmush was of one the founders of the Free Syrian Army, which organized the rebels who effectively resisted Bashar al-Assad's troops.
Harmush recently appeared on Syrian state television and pleaded guilty, saying that he had committed violent acts against Assad's rule.