The İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court on Thursday announced its verdict in the 16-month-long trial. While the court acquitted all of the suspects of prostitution and military espionage charges, the court handed down prison terms to some of the suspects for other charges. The court also ruled in favor of the release of four suspects who had been imprisoned for the duration of the trial.
The trial, which concluded on Thursday, concerns the first wave of operations against an espionage gang within the military. Rear Adm. Şafak Yürekli was sentenced to two years, seven months and 20 days for aiding and abetting a criminal organization and acquiring confidential documents, while retired Col. İbrahim Sezer, who is suspected of leading the gang, was given 11 years on charges of being a member of a criminal organization and obtaining secret documents.
A 250-page indictment in the case mentioned 56 suspects, including Sezer, who are suspected of having established or helping to establish a prostitution ring to extract vital state security secrets by blackmailing high-ranking officers and senior bureaucrats for the purpose of selling classified information to foreign intelligence services.
The court also found Yücel Çipli, who previously served as the head of a department at the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal organization.
The espionage gang nested within the navy was discovered in 2011 and the trial into the gang began in April 2011. Prosecutors had alleged that the gang obtained more than 165,000 highly confidential documents and 43 video recordings that would put state security at serious risk.
They leveled differing accusations against the suspects, including violation of the right to confidential communication; illegal wiretapping and recording; violation of one’s right to privacy; recording private information; acquiring or distributing data in violation of the law; forming, administering, membership in and aiding and abetting an organization established for the purpose of criminal activities; destroying documents crucial to national security and the domestic and external benefit of the state; acquiring documents crucial to national security; and political and military espionage.
Investigators had found that the gang had stolen information about various projects from agencies such as TÜBİTAK, defense industry giant ASELSAN, Air Electronics Industry (Havelsan) and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), which develops national military projects. The stolen information related to projects that were either in the beginning stages or undergoing research and development.
There is a separate ongoing investigation into another espionage gang that is allegedly based in İzmir and has operations in a number of other provinces, including İstanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Antalya, Muğla, Manisa, Zonguldak and Ordu. Currently, 68 people, including retired and active duty military officers, are under arrest on accusations of membership in the İzmir-based espionage gang. They also all stand accused of prostitution, human smuggling, blackmail, illegally obtaining military information and establishing and running a criminal organization. The suspects have not been formally indicted as of yet.