Iran accused of aiding Islamist violence in Turkey

Iran accused of aiding Islamist violence in TurkeySunday, 18 December 2005
Agence France Presse, ANKARA - A Turkish court has said that neighboring Iran trained Turkish Islamist radicals and supported "terrorist" activities aimed at undermining Turkey's strictly secular order, media reports said Sunday.

The accusations came in the reasoning that an Ankara court wrote over the convictions in July of nine Islamist militants in a long-running case over the murders of four prominent pro-secular intellectuals in the 1990s.

"Terrorism, which is an instrument of Iran's foreign policy, has been frequently used by this country against Turkey, whom it sees as a main rival in the region," the court document said, according to the Radikal newspaper.

"Small (Turkish) organizations with no following have attacked in the name of Islam targets considered as strategic by Iran," it said.

The main suspect in the case, Ferhan Ozmen, went to Iran in 1988, joined a group called the so-called Jerusalem Army and was trained in using weapons and explosives and making bombs, Anatolia news agency quoted the court as saying.
 
The prosecution had described the Jerusalem Army as a group within Iran's Revolutionary Guards which works to export the 1979 Islamic revolution to neighboring countries, when it indicted the suspects in July 2000.
 
Ozmen was sentenced to life in July for "seeking to overthrow the constitutional order by force and replace it with a state based on religious rules."

He was held responsible for gunning down scholar Muammer Aksoy and sending a deadly letter bomb to pro-secular theologist Bahriye Ucok in 1990, and for making the bombs that killed journalist Ugur Mumcu and former culure minister Ahmet Taner Kislali in their cars in 1993 and 1999 respectively.

Eight other defendants -- all but one of whom were said to have spent time in Iran -- received jail sentences of between three and 15 years for belonging to and commanding outlawed groups.

The Iran-linked Tevhid Selam group, to which the convicts belonged, was also behind the murders of two employees of the US and Saudi embassies in Ankara, in 1991 and 1988 respectively, as well as several bomb attacks on western and Jewish targets in Turkey, the court said.

After the police arrested the suspects and seized caches of weapons and explosives in 2000, then Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit accused Iran of aiding Turkish Islamist extremists and sheltering separatist Kurdish rebels. Tehran categorically denied the charges.

After years of animosity, the two neighbors have moved to improve relations in recent years, and Turkey has noted enhanced Iranian cooperation on security issues.
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