Turkey’s judiciary released 29 Turkish Hezbollah terrorists who were incarcerated for their role in the murders of over 100 civilians in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey in the 1990s, according to a May report from anti-government secular newspaper Sözcü.
The story first broke in two articles. Turkey’s Hezbollah is a Kurdish-dominated Sunni terrorist organization that seeks to set up an Islamic state in southeastern Turkey based on the Iranian regime model but it is not linked with the clerical regime in Tehran or Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“The Turkish judiciary system’s release of mass murderers who acted on behalf of Turkish Hezbollah should be understood as part of the Turkish government’s broader support for jihad terrorist organizations. Hamas, for instance, counts Turkey as an ally, Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, told The Jerusalem Post.
Bulut, who would likely face arrest if she returned to Turkey due to her critical journalism about the country, termed the release of the Turkish Hezbollah terrorists as a “scandal” because the AKP government [of Erdogan] does not see these people as criminal.
She added the Turkish Hezbollah terrorists were released before the local elections in 2019 and this appears to be the first media coverage of their freedom. Bulut said there is “no independent judiciary in Turkey.”
Sözcü reported that “while the convicted defendants were serving their sentences in different prisons, they applied to the High Criminal Court, where they were tried collectively before the March 2019 local elections, and requested a retrial.”
The Turkish Hezbollah operatives killed a total of 114 people during the attack for which they were convicted.
Sözcü noted that “19 shooters were released when the court accepted the request for a retrial for the convicts whose petitions were processed and decided to release them separately.” The paper said “It is noteworthy that the release of these shooters, who were released on the grounds of retrial despite being convicted, coincided with the March 2019 local elections.”
It is unclear why the Turkish government ostensibly censored the news of the release of the Turkish Hezbollah members since then.
“It was learned that the evacuated shooters were evacuated from January 2019 until April,” Sözcü reported.
According to the report, “it has been revealed that 10 convicted hitmen, who were part of the military wing of the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Diyarbakir, who killed 23 people and injured 22, were released on the grounds of ‘retrial’ before the 2019 local elections.”
The Turkish court that convicted the terrorists said the terrorists “carried out single-shot assassinations against people they believed to be anti-Hezbollah.”
When asked why Erdogan’s government would release Turkish Hezbollah terrorists who seek an independent Sunni extremist state within Turkey’s borders, Bulut said Turkish Hezbollah “is not a strong organization and there is no reason for Erdogan to fear them. It is believed that the Turkish states uses Hezbollah to weaken efforts to establish an independent Kurdish state.”
Bulut said Hezbollah Turkey is not an active organization but that it’s “still dangerous.” However, they do not have mass support to establish a Sharia [Islamic law] state.”
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK is a Kurdish organization that seeks an independent Kurdish state and has been embroiled in bloody conflict with Turkish Hezbollah. The Republic of Turkey designated the PKK and Turkish Hezbollah as terrorist entities.
Bulut said “the Turkish government has the same worldview as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s original inspiration. Turkey has provided a safe space for Hamas terrorists, giving them long-term visas and even Turkish citizenship. Hamas has recently announced that it maintains ‘stable’ relations with Turkey.”
Bulut continued to say that “Turkey has been co-occupying and exploiting parts of northern Syria along with al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists. It is also a well-documented fact that the Turkish government has for years enabled and cooperated with ISIS in areas such as finances, volunteers, and tactics. So the Turkish government’s release of convicted Hezbollah terrorists is not shocking, and is in line with its pro-jihad ideology.”
Erdogan’s authoritarian government has gutted civil liberties and independent journalism, human rights experts and Turkish journalists have said.
“When we look at who is instead in jail, we see journalists, legal politicians who call for civil rights reforms, and human rights activists,” said Bulut, who has written extensively about the collapse of Turkish democracy. “Osman Kavala, a prominent human rights advocate, for instance, was sentenced to life in April. Thousands of Kurds who request political equality are also rotting in Turkish jails.”
She added that “Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-head of the legal, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has always called for a peaceful political settlement of the Kurdish question through dialogue, has been imprisoned since 2016. He is being accused of ‘supporting terrorism.’ The Turkish government’s understanding of terrorism is irrational, illogical, inhumane, and completely opposed to international human rights law. They support actual terrorists such as Hamas and Hezbollah, but imprison and, in many cases, torture non-violent people for thinking differently or requesting wider human rights.”
Ersel Aydinli, who wrote an article for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: “Experts believe Turkish Hezbullah emerged around 1979 as the Iranian Revolution began supporting active terror methods for Islamist revolutions. Hundreds of the revolution’s Turkish sympathizers reportedly spent time in Iran and Afghanistan in the 1980s.”