Seven suspected members of the ISIS terrorist organization have been released after their trial in the Çağlayan Istanbul Courthouse yesterday.
The seven suspects were arrested during a larger operation aimed at cracking down on ISIS networks in Turkey, in which 96 suspects were taken into custody, however the majority were immediately released without charges.
The 96 individuals were suspected of involvement in a number of ISIS terror operations, including the Suruç bombings this past June in which 33 people were killed and the October Ankara bombing in which 102 people were killed.
The seven suspects released yesterday included Turkish nationals Halis Bayancuk, Cemil Aslan, Enes Yelgün, Erdal Yaşar, Mehmet Karlı and two Syrian nationals Muhammed Mustafa Halli ve Asaad Khelifalkhadr.
According to the Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the seven suspects faced the charges of “conducting activities within the ISIS organization, sending recruits to conflict zones, and providing the organization with logistical support and recruitment.”
Three suspects, including Muhammed Mustafa Halli, Halis Bayancuk and Asaad Khelifalkhadr denied the charges against them and claimed to have come from Syria in order to escape violence. Khelifalkhadr claimed to have come to Turkey in order to find work in the tourism sector, and stated “I do not support ISIS and I do not agree with their ideas.”
The court decided to release all seven suspects without charges but on the condition that they are barred from international travel. Thirty more suspects involved in the ISIS membership case are set to go on trial in June.
The release of the suspected ISIS member’s comes days after the ISIS-claimed Brussels attack, which targeted the airport and subway system and claimed the lives of 31 people.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, evidence suggests that Belgian and other European security agencies had advance and precise intelligence concerning the Brussels attack before it occurred.
Following the Brussel attack, Turkish President Erdoğan called for a more committed international effort to combat terrorism, pointing out that Turkish intelligence had previously warned Belgian intelligence about Tuesday’s attackers;
“We had previously arrested one of the attackers in June in Gaziantep and deported him to Belgium, warning the Belgian authorities that he was potentially a combatant. But the Belgian authorities were unable to prove his links to terror and released him.”
The President continued: “I believe that international politics can, with a united effort, solve the problem of terrorism. But to do this we need to redefine our idea of global terror, terrorism, and terrorists.”