Cablegate: Turkey: Eastern Provinces Score Gains in Counternarotics,


DE RUEHAK #1732/01 3381500
O 041500Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: TURKEY: Eastern Provinces Score Gains in Counternarotics,
but Lag in Information Sharing

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Turkish officials are making steady inroads
against drug smuggling in the southeast, local officials told
Embassy officers during a recent visit. PKK terrorist activity has
declined, but it remains active in drug smuggling. The inability of
Turkish officials to share information seized in terrorism and
narcotics investigations limits our ability to strengthen law
enforcement cooperation. We intend to pursue remedies. END

2. (SBU) From November 23-25, 2009, the Embassy Resident Legal
Advisor, FBI Legal Attache, and a DEA Agent, accompanied by Locally
Engaged Staff, visited three provinces in eastern Turkey to gain a
better understanding of cross-border smuggling and terrorism issues
confronting the region. The participants traveled to the cities of
Van, Dogubayazit, and Kars. The prosecutors in Van and Dogubayazit
were informative and provided constructive ideas for future
cooperation. The prosecutor in Kars, however, was suspicious and
uncooperative. This report consequently summarizes the first two
meetings and suggests areas for closer law enforcement cooperation.

3. (SBU) On November 23, the Embassy group met with Van Chief Public
Prosecutor Mustafa Alper and Public Prosecutor Sumer Koybasi. The
Van public prosecutor's office is responsible for prosecuting all
crimes committed in Van province, as well as organized crime and
drug prosecutions in the provinces of Hakkari, Mus, and Bitlis. The
Van office consists of 21 prosecutors - 13 are responsible for
general investigations, and eight are responsible for terrorism and
organized crime cases.

4. (SBU) The prosecutors reported that heroin, opium, hashish, and
cannabis are the primary drugs smuggled in this region. The drugs
are smuggled through border entry points by truck or through
mountain passes by mule. The cities of Van, Hakkari, and Baskale
(in southeastern Van province) are the main entry points of drugs
into Turkey. Most drugs are smuggled through legitimate border
crossings during winter, as mountain routes are impassable. In many
instances, family members living on both sides of the border
facilitate the smuggling. The PKK is tied to most drug smuggling in
some way, prosecutors claimed, either by demanding a "tax" from the
smugglers, or directly organizing the smuggling on its own.

5. (SBU) The prosecutors reported that the Turkish National Police
(TNP), Jandarma, and Customs officers work narcotics cases. Of the
three agencies, the TNP is the most effective. This is a result of
the TNP's use of wiretaps, confidential sources, routine road stops,
and narcotics detection dogs. TNP success is also facilitated by
its professionalism, prosecutors believe. The prosecutors claimed
the success rate in prosecutions involving wiretaps is "close to 100
percent." The importation and production of narcotics carry a
ten-year mandatory minimum sentence under Turkish Penal Code (TPC)
Article 188, and a fine. The penalty is increased by half if the
drug is heroin, cocaine, or morphine, and then increased by half
again if the crime involves a criminal organization.

6. (SBU) According to Van's prosecutors, in 2008, their office
conducted 15,000 prosecutions (including 250 cases from Hakkari,
Mus, and Bitlis provinces). Of these, approximately ten percent, or
1,500 cases, related to drug possession and trafficking. All of the
drugs seized had been produced in other countries. In Van province
in 2009, authorities seized nearly one ton of heroin, as well as
hashish, opium, ecstasy, and acetic anhydride (used to refine opium
into heroin).

7. (SBU) Other smuggling involves fuel oil, cigarettes, and people,
according to Van's prosecutors. Individuals smuggled into Turkey
come from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and African nations.
Few if any have terrorist connections, prosecutors reported. These
persons enter Turkey in search of a better life, either in Turkey or
in European countries.

8. (SBU) The PKK remains the biggest terrorism threat in Van

province, the prosecutors related, although PKK activity has
decreased significantly in the past year. The PKK continues to
kidnap teenage boys from villages in Eastern Turkey, our
interlocutors claimed. The boys are taken to training camps in
Northern Iraq, where they are indoctrinated and trained as PKK
members. The parents may report their children "lost," rather than
kidnapped, out of fear for their safety and that of their children.
Statistics on such kidnappings are sparse, as village children often
do not have birth certificates, and the reports of "lost" children
cannot be verified.

9. (SBU) Al Qaeda has also been active in Van province, prosecutors
stated. In October 15-16, 2009, a number of al Qaeda-related
arrests were made throughout Turkey, 11 of which were in Van. The
suspects are all Turkish citizens. Investigators have gathered
30,000 pages of evidence, as well as CD's showing videos of fighting
in Afghanistan. Five of the 11 suspects have been detained. (Note:
This account is not consistent with classified reporting received
about the October 2009 arrests). When asked if they could share
information on this case with the FBI, the prosecutors stated
Turkish law prevents them from doing so, as the case files can only
be accessed by parties to the case.

10. (SBU) Dogubayazit Chief Public Prosecutor Hakan Dundar and
Public Prosecutor Adem Aydemir explained that Dogubayazit is a
center of smuggling for drugs, people, and commodities. It is the
closest city to the primary Iranian border gate, Gurbulak, and the
neighboring border region is rugged and mountainous. The office
consists of the Chief Prosecutor and six public prosecutors.

11. (SBU) Drugs are smuggled in roughly equal amounts through the
legitimate border crossing at Gurbulak and through mountain passes.
As in Van, the percentage going through mountain passes drops
dramatically in the winter when deep snow makes mountain routes
impassable. The prosecutors claimed that law enforcement has
achieved a 60 percent reduction in drug smuggling from 2008 to 2009.
In early November 2009, they destroyed one ton of heroin that had
been seized during the first nine months of 2009. However, two
troubling trends have emerged: an increased purity in the heroin
seized (from 40 percent in past years to roughly 70 percent in
2009), and an increase in the smuggling of liquid heroin. (Note:
Liquid heroin is a watered down version of heroin, which experts say
can be more fatal than other illegal drugs. It is injected into
fruits or mixed with drinks.) Drugs are transported by villagers
via mules in mountain regions and by truck drivers through the
border crossings. Those arrested rarely cooperate with
investigators, either out of fear or because they really do not know
much about the trafficking organization.

12. (SBU) The prosecutors reported their office handled 100 drug
smuggling cases during 2008-2009 and approximately 300 non-drug
smuggling cases. Generally, these cases involved fuel and
cigarettes. Asked about judicial assistance and cooperation with
Iranian authorities, prosecutors replied that during the two years
they have been in the region, they have received no assistance from
Iranian judicial authorities.

13. (SBU) As in Van, the primary terrorism threat in Dogubayazit is
the PKK. Prosecutors reported 67 "terrorism events" in 2009 such as
demonstrations, "propaganda," and marches. Of these 67 events, two
were gun attacks by PKK members, neither of which resulted in a
fatality. The prosecutors claimed the PKK remains active in drug

Comment and Suggested Way Forward
14. (SBU) DEA has requested samples of heroin from Turkish seizures
to test for purity and origin. Turkish forensic regulations
prohibit this. The prosecutors with whom we spoke suggested that
the only way to remedy the situation is to lobby for a change in the

procedures used in forensics labs. This would require the Ministry
of Justice, which oversees certain forensic laboratories, and the
Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the Jandarma and TNP labs,
to change their regulations. These changes would not require
Parliamentary approval, but only the signature of the two relevant
Ministers. The prosecutors suggested language which would "permit
sharing of drug samples with international law enforcement
organizations." Additional language could include that this sharing
of drug samples be "solely for use in criminal investigations," or
for other legitimate law enforcement purposes. We should actively
pursue these changes, which would greatly facilitate DEA regional
counter-narcotics efforts.

15. (SBU) Separately, criminal indictments and criminal court
documents are sealed from public view in Turkey - they can only be
accessed by the parties to the case. Consequently, the DEA, FBI,
RLA, and other U.S. embassy personnel have had difficulty learning
the status of cases making their way through the Turkish criminal
court system. The contradictory reports we have received on the
October 2009 "al Qaeda" arrests highlight the need for concrete,
verifiable information about the arrest and prosecution of terrorism
suspects in Turkey. The opening of Turkish court documents would
allow the U.S. to more easily verify this information. We should
encourage the Turkish Ministry of Justice to support laws and
regulations which would open court files to public view.
Alternatively, we and partner nations should encourage Turkey to
permit sharing court documents with law enforcement personnel for
legitimate law enforcement purposes. In future weeks, we will be
meeting with relevant officials in the Ministries of the Interior
and Justice to press for these changes. We will also engage with
our European partners to encourage their participation in the above

16. (SBU) We are under no illusion that reform of Turkey's judicial
system will be easy, particularly if legal changes are needed. We
will continue to look for openings to pursue the above goals and
other improvements in law enforcement cooperation.

© Scoop Media

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