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Defense ministry confirms allegations of ex-general smuggling people into Turkey in official car

A Turkish military position is pictured near the Syrian border, west of the village of Jindayris, in the countryside of Afrin, on December 18, 2021. (Photo by Rami al SAYED / AFP)

An official from Turkey’s defense ministry has confirmed recent claims by a journalist that a former Turkish general used his official car to smuggle people from Syria into Turkey, the Sözcü daily reported on Thursday.

Barış Terkoğlu of the Cumhuriyet daily reported earlier this week that authorities recently ordered the search of a car that would be exempt from routine checks.

They discovered that the vehicle was the official car of former brigadier general B.Ç. and was being used to smuggle people across the border in exchange for money. The general’s adjutant and bodyguard, who were involved in the operation, were arrested, the journalist said, adding that ministry sources also confirmed that B.Ç. is under investigation and was forced to retire.

According to Terkoğlu’s sources, this incident is not an isolated case. Similar cases, particularly involving lower-ranking officers, have been uncovered.

Terkoğlu’s claims were confirmed by Brig. Gen. Esat Mahmut Yılmaz, director general of legal services at the Ministry of Defense, during the discussions in the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, according to Sözcü.

Yılmaz was responding to a question posed by main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Eskişehir MP Utku Çakırözer. He said three people were arrested, the contracts of some soldiers were terminated and that some people were referred to the high disciplinary board due to the accusations.

“Those responsible for the incident have been identified, even if they were not directly involved in it. The rotten apples are coming out. The border is our honor,” Yılmaz was quoted as saying.

When the MP asked how many such cases had been detected and how many of them were currently being investigated, Yılmaz replied: “In all disciplinary cases, judicial and administrative procedures are initiated immediately. … We are taking measures to prevent similar incidents not only in that region but also at all our borders.”

Turkey has established direct control over swaths of land in northern Syria through successive offensives against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) since 2018. The YPG, a Syrian Kurdish armed group that played a crucial role in the coalition task force set up to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is viewed by Ankara as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus a terrorist organization.

Rights groups and organizations that monitor the region have since accused Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed rebels of committing war crimes against the local population during cross-border offensives.

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