Former Mossad MP denies detainees in Turkey are Israeli spies
The chairman of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said on Saturday that none of the 15 men arrested in Turkey earlier this week were Mossad operatives, as Turkish media claim.
MP Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad intelligence agency, also suggested that the Turkish government was eager to show off its intelligence “achievements”, leading to the occasional publication of false information.
“None of the published names have been [of] Israeli spies and therefore that should be put in proportion, ”he told Channel 12.
Turkey Sabah every day reported Thursday that 15 men who allegedly spied on behalf of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were arrested by authorities earlier this month.
Sabah, who is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, interviewed one of the detainees on Friday, whom he identified only by his initials MAS
There was no official confirmation from Turkey on the arrests and it was not clear how the newspaper questioned the man if he had been arrested.
“I met a Mossad official face to face. He taught me how to encrypt files on the laptop, ”MAS told Sabah.
The man, who has a company that provides counseling services to students coming from abroad to Istanbul, told the newspaper that he was responsible for monitoring Palestinians in Turkey. He said he was first approached by a man claiming to represent an Arab based in Germany who wanted to study in Turkey.
The man was first awarded hundreds of euros for providing information on how Palestinian students entered Turkish universities and the type of support they received from Turkish authorities.
He also later claimed to have provided the client with details of a Palestinian non-governmental organization working in Turkey.
He said he had received some $ 10,000 in exchange for providing information over three years; some of the money was sent via Western Union, and some was given to him at a market in Istanbul showing his ID and a receipt.
During this time, he was brought to Switzerland to meet his so-called managers, receiving a visa sponsored by an organization called the “European Center for Student Guidance”.
During his all-expenses-paid visit, he met two separate men, including one who taught him how to encrypt Word files on Protonmail, an email service with end-to-end encryption. Further contacts between the two were made through Protonmail, according to the newspaper.
MAS said that on a second visit to Zurich he again met the two men and another man named “John”. After becoming suspicious and asking them if they were intelligence agents, they told him they worked for “an intelligence-type organization with a duty to do research for EU institutions”.
It was not clear when he came to the conclusion that he had been recruited by the Mossad.
According to Thursday’s report, the arrests took place on October 7, following a year-long National Intelligence Organization (MIT) operation involving some 200 Turkish intelligence officers who tracked down the suspected spies.
The suspects, who are believed to be of Arab origin, operated in groups of three, according to the report. Some had met Mossad agents in Croatia and Switzerland, where information was exchanged.
They had also received orders in the Romanian capital of Bucharest and Nairobi in Kenya, according to the report.
The five groups had operated in different parts of the country, Sabah reported.
İsrail adına casusluk yapan 15 kişilik şebeke çökertildi. Casuslar, özellikle Türkiye’deki Filistinli ve Suriyeli öğrenciler hakkında bilgi topluyordu. MİT’in MOSSAD ajanlarına yönelik operasyonuna dair detaylar @trthaber‘of.https://t.co/NXsUuwAm2t pic.twitter.com/8uzrcuTHz6
– TRT Haber Canl (@trthabercanli) 21 October 2021
The men had provided the Mossad with information on students studying in the country, some of whom were Turkish citizens and others were foreigners, including Palestinians, according to the report.
The main targets of the espionage operation were the Palestinians in Turkey and the facilities that housed them, Sabah said.
According to the newspaper, MIT also found out how agents were paid, including cryptocurrency payments and money transfers from jewelry and exchange stores.
A report last year claimed that the Palestinian terror group Hamas was secretly operating a facility in Turkey where it carried out cyber attacks and counterintelligence operations against Israel.
The headquarters, which is separate from official Hamas offices in the city, was installed without the knowledge of Turkish authorities, according to the report.
British daily The Telegraph also reported in 2020 that Turkey is granting citizenship to a dozen high-ranking Hamas operatives involved in coordinating terrorist attacks. The report was then confirmed by the charge d’affaires at the Israeli embassy in Ankara.
Turkey views Hamas as a legitimate political movement. The country has a long-standing warm relationship with Hamas, which has intensified as relations with Israel have cooled over the past decade. Israel complained to Ankara about its ties to Hamas, but to no avail, according to the report.
In August 2020, Erdogan met a Hamas delegation that included political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh and terrorist group number 2 Saleh al-Arouri – a senior military commander who has a bounty of US $ 5 million on his head. .
The meeting was harshly condemned by the US State Department at the time, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed the criticism, accusing Washington of “serving the interests of Israel.”
Hamas and Erdogan’s AKP party are politically linked. Both have strong ideological ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement.