The governor’s office of I?d?r announced in a written statement on Wednesday that Turkish police had detained eight Turkish citizens in simultaneous operations on charges of spying for Iranian intelligence. The arrests stem from the expansion of an investigation by police after the arrest of two Iranian citizens and one Turkish citizen on Aug. 19, 2011, all of whom were found in possession of digital recorders with information on state security.
The two Iranian nationals and Turkish citizen were then arrested under Article 327 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which criminalizes the acquisition of information on state security by unauthorized individuals.
The arrest of eight Turkish citizens on Tuesday came after police uncovered extensive links associating them with the Iranian citizens arrested in 2011.
Turkish media reported on Wednesday that Turkish police had found a photograph of the I?d?r Provincial Gendarmerie Command building in a minibus in I?d?r in 2011 and detained two suspects of Iranian origin, identified as Shahram Zargham Kohei and Mohammed Reza Esmaeilpour Ali Malek, on charges of taking photos in a restricted area of police stations and strategic buildings belonging to military units. Newspapers claim that the group had been planning to fuel insurgency among the Kurdish population in southern and southeastern Turkey.
Erol Gür, the attorney for the two Iranians, told Today’s Zaman that his clients are in detention in Erzurum and their trial is still pending.
Media also reported that police had seized a Kalashnikov rifle, a shotgun and documents and secret correspondence between the suspects and Iranian intelligence officials. There were also records of phone conversations they had had with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
In his initial testimony, Kohei said he works for an Iranian company that specializes in elevator systems and that he had taken photos of the big buildings in the area with the intention of installing elevators in them.
The governor’s office said that a probe into the matter is ongoing and that it will share additional information with the public in the coming days.
Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Iran have been strained for some time due to the differing stances of the two on the Syrian crisis, with recent comments made by the Iranian chief of General Staff indicating that “it will be Turkey’s turn” if Turkey continues to “help advance the warmongering policies of the United States in Syria,” triggering a harsh reaction from Ankara.
In remarks likely to further raise tensions, an Iranian lawmaker said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s government’s interference in Syria will be a blow to his political future.
“I advise Mr. Erdo?an and his friends not to engage in this issue; undoubtedly, in Turkey’s future elections, Erdo?an’s party will be the victim of such matters,” said Ebrahim Aqa-Mohammadi, a member of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, according to Press TV. Turkey warned Iran in return, explaining the apolitical and unethical nature of that attitude and making it clear it would damage bilateral ties.
That statement alone is not the soul reason for the soured ties. There have been increasing suspicions that Iran has lent support to PKK terrorists. The killing of six Turkish soldiers and two village guards near the Iranian border by PKK terrorists early in August increased the level of criticism against Iran. The belief that the terrorists carried out the attack after sneaking over from Iran has drawn even stronger reactions.
The Daily Telegraph published a report on Aug. 22 quoting Western intelligence sources that allege Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given orders to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to send a warning to several countries, including Turkey, that are actively trying to push Syrian dictator Assad out of power. The report alleges that Khamenei gave the order following a recent emergency meeting of Iran’s National Security Council in Tehran. The meeting was held to discuss a specially commissioned report into the implications for Iran of the overthrow of the Assad regime.