The assassination squad that planned to assassinate Kurdish officials in Belgium has been exposed and an unprecedented case has been opened. Identities of the squad members reveal that they were based in France and had direct connections with Ankara.
Following the investigation into the June 2017 assassination attempt against KONGRA GEL co-chairman Remzi Kartal and KCK Executive Council member Zübeyir Aydar, a Belgium court decided to open a case on June 18. The trial, which was set to begin on October 1 (today) but was postponed to next year, marks the first of its kind for the Kurds in Europe and Turkey.
“The assassination attempt that the Turkish state wanted to organize against politicians has been exposed and will be judged in a foreign country’s court,” Zübeyir Aydar said.
In 2018, the Belgian judiciary defined the PKK’s struggle as “a non-international armed conflict between the Kurds and the Turkish state” and ruled that the PKK could not be considered a terrorist organization.
A Belgian court now has an extraordinary file. The prosecutor’s office initially requested a decision of rejection of venue but had to step back in the face of the strong evidence in the file.
Sources close to the file said that important information was obtained as a result of technical surveillance. Investigators determined that two people talked about a plan to “kill people in a bloodbath” in a phone call. These remarks led the Belgian authorities to take the investigation even more seriously.
The remarks were made in a phone call by Zekeriya Çelikbilek before a vehicle carrying the Turkish assassination squad was stopped by the police in Brussels in 2017. It was revealed in the investigation that the assassination team scouted around for the purpose of assassination.
While Çelikbilek lived in France, another member of the team, Yakup Koç, nicknamed “colonel”, also went to France. Yakup Koç was stopped carrying an ID belonging to the Turkish police during a police check in Belgium.
On this basis, the Belgian judiciary asked the French authorities to conduct an investigation as part of international judicial cooperation. The French police began to wiretap phone calls of those involved in the assassination network. Very striking information was received following the wiretapping. Yet, only some of it was shared with the Belgian justice.
As a result of the wiretapping, it was revealed that not only Çelikbilek and Koç, but also a group of people were related to each other. “The chief of this team is Yakup Koç,” Zübeyir Aydar said.
As the investigation evolved over time, it came out that all these people belonged to an intelligence and assassination network. The suspects were related to each other, acting together and all connected to the Turkish Embassy in Paris. It was found that all these people were also related to Ankara. The group is directly connected to Erdogan’s Palace.
The profiles of the members of the assassination network are also interesting. One of them deals with a “second-hand car” job in appearance, and Çelikbilek is an electrical engineer.
There is a different picture in the background. “Tomorrow I have to go to Belgium for the homeland,” one of them said in the wiretaps. Sources close to the investigation deem Yeşilyurt an “outcast” and a “loser”. His name is mentioned in the file in Belgium. In 2017, he went to Ghent, Belgium, and bought a car from Turkish “businessman” Necati Demiroğulları and went to Ankara driving it. Demiroğlulları is also Yakup Koç’s son-in-law and oversees all the logistics of the assassination team.
Demiroğulları creates false documents for Yeşilyurt, depicting the vehicle as a “company vehicle” and Yeşilyurt as a “company employee”. Yesilyurt contacts Yakup Koç to get these things done. Koç asks his son-in-law Demiroğulları to take care of the business. For this purpose, Yeşilyurt’s passport and other necessary documents were requested. Copies of the passport and other documents were found on Demiroğulları’s WhatsApp. Thus, the Belgian judiciary decided to further the investigation against Yeşilyurt.
Yeşilyurt, born in the northeast Turkish city of Trabzon, died on April 8, 2021, at the age of 41, due to “Covid-19”. His body was sent to his hometown. At some point, İrfan Yeşilyurt was spotted sending a parcel to Istanbul via Chronopost. Yeşilyurt called Cronopost and asked why his package did not reach the address. He got angry. When Cronopost asked what was in the package, he replied that there was a list of names and phone numbers. Later, the French police questioned Yeşilyurt and asked him what he had sent to Istanbul. He once again claimed that the package contained a list of names and phone numbers. When the police asked what kind of a list it was, he gave an inconsistent response. He argued that he went to the cemeteries in France, wrote down the names of the Turks buried there and sent them to Ankara. But it was strange that the dead people had phone numbers.
There is another remarkable development concerning Yeşilyurt. Belgian authorities found out that Yeşilyurt got caught in a secret warning system in the Schengen area. Whenever Yeşilyurt crossed the border, his movement was forwarded to a relevant unit. The French authorities were somehow following him. They wanted to know where he was going.
When the Belgians asked the reason why, the French authorities did not reply. Then it came out that the French officials strangely removed Yeşilyurt from the Schengen warning system and erased his traces. A Belgian prosecutor also wanted to close the investigation, arguing that Yeşilyurt was first followed because he started a quarrel in a café, but the prosecutor’s request was not taken seriously since issuing a Europe-wide search warrant for a quarrel was found “absurd”.
THEY RECEIVED SPECIAL TRAINING
Another name identified within this network is Sami Koç. He is Yakup Koç’s nephew. There is another person named “Avni”. While tracking them, the French police found out that the suspects had received special training as the group was using a technique to prevent wiretaps. In other words, they know how to prevent wiretapping.
BASED IN FRANCE
This team, which carried out intelligence activities, also served as a team that organized those who were sent to Belgium. The investigation revealed that the assassination squad sent to Belgium was based in France.
All of them have links with the Turkish embassy and Ankara. In the wiretaps, the relations of people named Yeşilyurt and Mustafa Keskin with the Turkish embassy stand out.
A VERY IMPORTANT PICTURE: TANRIVERDI AND SADAT
There is also a very important photo in the case file. It was found on Çelikbilek’s mobile phone. During his interrogation, Çelikbilek claimed that this photo had been sent by Yeşilyurt. Yeşilyurt stands between two people in the photo. When Çelikbilek was asked who they were, he replied that one of them was from the family, one of them was Yeşilyurt, and he did not know the third one.
The person Çelikbilek claimed he did not know was identified by the investigators. For those who know Turkey, he is a notorious figure: Adnan Tanrıverdi. He is the founder of the International Defence Consulting Company aka SADAT. Moreover, he was also an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is a former soldier who served as the Chief of the General Staff Special Warfare Department and the head of the Northern Cyprus Civil Defense Organization for 30 years. The current Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar, who served as the Chief of the General Staff during the July 15 coup attempt in 2016, is among the students of Tanrıverdi who also gave lectures at the Turkish Military Academy. His relationship with Erdogan dates to at least 1994 and it improved after the February 28 period and gained a new dimension after the “coup attempt” on July 15, 2016. After the coup attempt, Tanrıverdi was made the chief advisor to the President on security issues at Erdoğan’s request. He began attending the top security meetings of the state.
After wide criticism of his remarks “We need to prepare for the coming of the Mahdi” at the 3rd International Islamic Union Congress held in Istanbul in December 2019, Tanrıverdi resigned from his duties as both chief advisor and Security and Foreign Policy Committee Member on January 8, 2020.
SADAT was officially launched on February 28, 2012. There were 23 retired officers and sub-officers within the company at that time. Currently, the company has 64 advisers in 22 Muslim countries, including the Tripoli government. SADAT directly participates in the training of armed groups in Syria, and can easily enter Turkish military camps. In 2016-2017 and 2018, it advised mercenary groups during the occupation operations called “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”. The company is used in foreign operations yet is also used as an armed political militia inside Turkey. The company has military training camps especially in Tokat and Konya provinces in central Turkey. SADAT’s current activities are kept confidential except for some information in open sources.
It is alleged that SADAT works especially for the security of the governments of Muslim countries. SADAT also acts as a mediator between the governments in question and the Turkish defence industry. Furthermore, it provides training for the infantry, special forces, navy and air forces. SADAT is considered as a new Turkish Gladio, manages operations inside and outside the country. It is used as a cover for the Turkish secret service MIT’s operations both inside and outside.
WHAT IS SADAT DOING IN EUROPE?
These facts are well known. But how is SADAT organized in Europe? How related are European countries to this company?
Tanriverdi visited Paris with Erdogan in 2018. His name was not mentioned in the official delegation. It is not known what kind of meetings he had, what was discussed or what subjects were agreed upon during this visit.
A SECOND PHOTO: SEYİT SERTÇELİK
It turned out that the team, which pretended to be an electricity or second-hand car firm in Paris, was tasked with meeting Tanrıverdi and Sertçelik. The team has links to both persons.
During Erdoğan’s visit to Paris, there was another person very close to him: Seyit Sertçelik. He is known as the President’s former Chief Advisor and Presidential Security Policy and Foreign Policy Board Member Prof. Dr. Seyit Sertcelik. He seems to be more concerned with denying the Armenian Genocide.
He was photographed visiting a Turkish prison in Afrin which was occupied by the Turkish state in March 2018. He also shared this photo on his Facebook page. However, his other photos which were not shared in public indicate that Sertçelik went much further. He has photos taken in Paris and Ankara with the members of the assassination network in Europe.
Two photographs of Sertçelik draw particular attention. One with Çelikbilek in Paris, the other with Keskin and Koç in Ankara. Zekeriya Çelikbilek took the photograph in Ankara. These three people visited Sertçelik at his office in Erdogan’s Palace in Ankara.
When the French police asked Çelikbilek who this person was, he claimed that he was “a person who came to Paris”, that he was “guiding” him and that his name was “Sait”. When asked about Sertcelik’s office, he replied that it was a ministry office or “something like that”. He claimed that since he guided the person in the photograph (Seyit Sertçelik) in Paris, he in turn “guided” him in Ankara. Çelikbilek alleged that he did not know that the office he visited was in Erdoğan’s Palace. However, it was not found to be convincing at all that Çelikbilek did not recognize the Palace and that Erdoğan’s advisor guided him.
MILITARY ATTACHE’S REQUEST FROM ÇELİKBİLEK
Çelikbilek’s phone also stores a piece of paper and photographs containing the name of a military attaché at the Paris Embassy. The military attaché, whose name cannot be revealed, told everything he had done for the ruling AKP in this paper. When the police asked Çelikbilek what he meant, Çelikbilek provided more details. However, he claimed in a previous interrogation that he did not remember anything and that he had Alzheimer illness.
Çelikbilek said that the military attaché was accused of being affiliated with the Gülen Movement and was asked to give the paper to Erdoğan if he was caught. When Çelikbilek and the military attaché met at the embassy in Paris after the coup attempt in 2016, a written request was delivered to him. In this case, if Çelikbilek is only an “electrician” as he claims, it is pertinent to ask why the military attaché delivered to Çelikbilek the message that was supposed to be conveyed to Erdoğan. In short, the military attaché knew that Çelikbilek had direct ties to Ankara.
VERY CLOSE TO THE INNER CIRCLE
Undoubtedly, all the information revealed in the investigation cannot be restricted to the information given above. French authorities have much more detailed and extensive information. However, there has been very limited information sharing with the investigation in Belgium. In short, French authorities know much more than the information they share. It also remains an important question why these people remained undisturbed or were not prosecuted in France. Tanriverdi and Sertcelik’s visit to Paris also needs clarification.
AYDAR: THERE IS A 7,000 PAGE FILE, EXTENDING TO ERDOGAN
Zübeyir Aydar states that the Turkish state has created a criminal organization abroad. “There is a 7-thousand-page file in front of them. The existence of a criminal network is clearly revealed in this file. The assassination plans have been exposed, and the assassination team relies on the MIT, the Turkish government and even Tayyip Erdogan,” Aydar said.
It is not known how further the case will progress. But a source close to the investigation says that they do not have a long way to go to reveal the “inner circle”. The question remains whether the “inner circle” could be touched at all.