BY SETO BOYADJIAN, ESQ.
Turkey set another precedent for its cozy relations with Islamist bent and Turkish-friendly terrorists and terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Last week it was revealed that that Turkey has refused to extradite Al Qaeda leader Suleiman Abu Ghaith to United States. Turkish authorities have rejected a formal U.S. request for his extradition thereby breaching the 1979 extradition treaty between the two countries.
Abu Gaith happens to be Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law. In late January, the Central Intelligence Agency tipped off the Turkish National Intelligence Organization that Abu Ghaith had entered Turkey from Iran on a forged passport. Turkish authorities arrested him on February 1 in a hotel in Ankara’s Çankaya district. The hotel is within the proximity of the Turkish President’s residence and in the vicinity of the U.S. and many other foreign embassies.
Al Qaeda terrorist leader Abu Gaith is neither a novice nor a benign operative. A native of Kuwait, he went to Afghanistan in 2000 and met with Osama Bin Laden. He then joined the Al Qaeda organization. He married Bin Laden’s daughter Fatima. He became very active in the organization and steadily rose to prominence and leadership positions. He became a senior aide to Bin Laden and served as a public spokesperson for Al Qaeda.
Following his arrest, Abu Gaith was brought to a Turkish court. The judge refused to detain him on grounds that “he had not committed any criminal act while in Turkey” other than entering the country on a forged passport. Based on the judge’s decision, Abu Ghaith was handed over to the Turkish military and thereafter deported back to Iran.
The judge’s decision smacks of Turkish coziness and friendly ties with Al Qaeda connected operatives. Instead of depicting the dangerous terrorist in Abu Gaith, Turkish authorities treated him as a common “asylum seeker” who has entered Turkey on a forged passport.
In violation of the bilateral treaty on the extradition of criminals, Turkey officially rejected U.S. request for Abu Gaith’s extradition. Turkey even refused a simple American request to interrogate Abu Ghaith.
Turkey’s refusal to cooperate with U.S. on matters relating to Al Qaeda should not come as a surprise. For a long time Turkey has been wooing and cajoling Al Qaeda for purposes of enhancing Turkish hegemonic pursuits in the region irrespective of whether its conduct conflicts with or damages U.S. concerns and interests. Turkey’s friendly gestures and assistance to Al Qaeda are well documented.
A few years back Turkey aided and abetted Al Qaeda attacks in Iraq in flagrant defiance of U.S. efforts to stabilize and pacify the country. Diplomatic documents
posted on WikiLeaks website in late November 2010 disclosed that Turkey has allowed weapons to be smuggled to Al Qaeda forces in Iraq. Specifically, the documents revealed that Turkish authorities have expressly permitted transfer of money and weaponry across Turkey’s border to Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. The documents also showed that Turkey was both directly and indirectly involved in the execution of terrorist acts in Iraq, including the blowing up of a bridge in Baghdad.
During the past two years, Turkey has been arming Al Qaeda members in Turkey and sending them across the border into Syria. Recurrent news reports confirm this infiltration process with Al Qaeda participation and Turkish complicity. Last September Syria’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon accusing Turkey of allowing thousands of al-Qaeda and “Takfiri and Wahhabi terrorists” to cross the border to “kill innocent Syrians, blow up their properties and spread chaos and destruction.”
U.S. concerns over Turkish overtures to Al Qaeda terrorists do not seem to bother the Turkish leadership. Turkey not only refuses to collaborate with U.S. counterterrorism agencies; it also defies U.S. policies in the region by assisting Al Qaeda terrorism.
President Barack Obama proudly considers Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan his “friend.” But this friend does not share Obama’s and America’s deep convictions on the dangers of befriending Al Qaeda and its terrorists. This friend also does not give a hoot about U.S. concerns and policies in the region. When it comes to terrorists, this friend is very keen to own up to “his terrorists”.
How can two “friends” be so unalike? Then it is not wasted to remind Obama that with a “friend” like this who needs enemies! Or in Erdogan’s language, “Bunun gibi dostun varsa düşmana gerek yok!”
In befriending Al Qaeda and its terrorists, Erdogan is telling in so many words and so many acts that the terrorist enemies of United States are my friends.
Seto Boyadjian is an attorney and serves on the national board of ANCA.