Turkish foreign minister accuses West of hiring journalists as spies

Erdogan and CavusogluIn a further sign of worsening relations between Turkey and the West, Turkey’s foreign minister has accused Western countries of secretly employing journalists to spread “terrorist” propaganda against his country. His claims come just days after European leaders strongly criticized Ankara for imprisoning foreign journalists without trial. During a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders in Brussels last week, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel protested the arrest of Deniz Yücel, a reporter for German newspaper Die Welt, who was arrested in Turkey in February. Yücel, who is a German citizen, has remained imprisoned without trial for more than three months. Germany’s protests were echoed by France at the NATO conference. The newly elected French President, Emmanuel Macron, criticized the arrest by Turkish authorities of National Geographic photojournalist Mathias Depardon. Depardon, a French citizen, was arrested earlier this month and is currently on hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention.

But in an interview with BuzzFeed, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu dismissed these complaints as part of a conspiracy against Ankara. Speaking last weekend from the Slovakian capital Bratislava, Çavuşoğlu accused “the secret services of these countries” of “using journalists and also bloggers in Turkey”. He said that this was “the new trend in Europe”, namely for spy services of Western countries to hire journalists as spies. In a tone that the BuzzFeed reporter described as “conspiratorial”, Çavuşoğlu said that when journalists working as spies are arrested by Turkish police, European governments “make a lot of noise [and] it becomes a big issue”. Çavuşoğlu also claimed that he directly contacted German authorities to claim that Yücel , the Die Welt reporter, “was working for the secret service of Germany”.

Çavuşoğlu’s claims epitomize the worsening relations between Ankara and Western countries, which have followed a rapidly downward spiral since the July 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey. The coup attempt included an armed attack on the country’s parliament and the murder of over 200 people across Turkey. Ankara claims that the coup was sponsored by supporters of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who runs a global network of schools, charities and businesses from his home in the United States. The government of Turkey has designated Gülen’s group a terrorist organization and claims that its members have stealthily infiltrated state institutions since the 1980s.

Earlier this month, Turkey’s relations with the United States were tested after members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal detail engaged in violent clashes with protesters in Washington, during an official visit of the Turkish leader. A subsequent report in The New York Times blamed Mr. Erdoğan’s security guards for the mayhem. But Çavuşoğlu dismissed the report as the work of pro-Gülen centers. “They have been attacking Turkey and Erdoğan for two years and we know who is behind this”, said the Turkish foreign minister, adding that “this kind of anti-Turkey and anti- Erdoğan coverage” is sponsored by “terrorist acolytes”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 May 2017 | Permalink

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Turkish media disclose identity of alleged spy for Canada

Mohammed al-RashedBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Turkish media have released the name, as well as video footage, of an alleged agent for Canadian intelligence, who says he helped three British schoolgirls travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The three girls, aged between 15 and 16 years old, crossed into ISIS-controlled territory on February 17, after traveling by plane from London to Istanbul. The incident prompted international criticism of the Turkish government’s hands-off attitude toward a growing influx of Western Islamists who cross into Syria from Turkey, intent on joining ISIS. However, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that the girls had been assisted by an intelligence agent working for a member-state of the military coalition fighting ISIS.

The minister declined to offer further details. But Turkish media eventually disclosed the identity of the alleged agent, who has been detained by authorities in Turkey as Mohammed al-Rashed. Also known as “Mohammed Mehmet Rashid” or “Dr. Mehmet Rashid”, the man is a Syrian national who claims to be working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. According to Turkey’s pro-government daily Sabah, al-Rashed is a 28-year-old Syrian dentist who fled from Syria to Jordan in 2013 to escape the civil war there. While in Jordan, he sought asylum at the Canadian embassy in Amman. He was subsequently offered Canadian citizenship, said Sabah, in return for working as an agent of CSIS. According to the Turkish daily, al-Rashed then traveled to Canada, where he stayed for several months before returning to Jordan.

Sources in Turkey say al-Rashed explained upon his detention that he had been tasked by CSIS to uncover the methods by which European and American ISIS recruits travel to Syria through Turkey. For that reason, he said, he had helped at least 15 individuals, including the three British schoolgirls, cross form Turkey to Syria. He would then provide information on the transfers —including passport data and baggage tags— to the Canadian embassy in Jordan, he said. Sabah added that the Canadians would pay for al-Rashed’s frequent trips to Jordan, where he would meet a Canadian embassy employee called “Matt”, who would then pass on the information to his superior at the embassy, called “Claude”. The Syrian alleged agent added that CSIS would compensate him for his work through frequent deposits of between $800 and $1,500 made to bank accounts opened in his name in British banks. Turkish sources added that al-Rashed had recorded details of his activities on a personal laptop, which had been seized and was being examined.

The Canadian government has yet to comment publicly on the allegations about al-Rashed. Unnamed Canadian sources said last week that he was neither a Canadian citizen nor a CSIS employee. But officials so far refused to speculate on what they describe as “operational matters of national security”.

Turkey says Canadian spy helped British schoolgirls travel to Syria

CCTV footage of UK girls heading to SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In a development described by observers as “highly unusual”, a Turkish government minister has claimed that a Canadian spy helped three British schoolgirls travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The three girls, Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, also 15, crossed into ISIS-controlled territory on February 17, after having traveled by plane from London to Istanbul. The incident prompted renewed international criticism of the Turkish government’s hands-off attitude toward the growing influx of Western Islamists who cross into Syria from Turkey, intent on joining ISIS.

But Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the girls had been assisted during their trip by an intelligence agent working for a foreign country. In responding to criticism against Turkey, the minister claimed during a television interview that Turkish security forces had arrested a foreign intelligence operative who had enabled the three British citizens to cross into Syria. The man, said Cavusoglu, was a spy from a member-state of the military coalition fighting ISIS. “It is not a member-state of the European Union”, he added, “nor is he from the United States. But he is working for the intelligence [agency] of a country within the [anti-ISIS] coalition”. Later on Thursday, an unnamed Turkish government source told local media that the agent was not a Turkish citizen and that he had been arrested earlier in March.

Several press agencies, including Reuters and Agence France Presse reported on Thursday that the individual in question was “connected” with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, but stopped short of saying that he was working for the government of Canada. A statement from the office of Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister for Public Safety, who is responsible for overseeing the work of CSIS, said simply that the Ministry was “aware of these reports” but would “not comment on operational matters of national security”. An anonymous government source in Ottawa denied that the individual arrested in Turkey was a Canadian citizen or that he ever worked for CSIS.