Turkish prosecutors indict Syrian rebels for seeking chemical weapons
A court indictment by the Turkish prosecutors into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian rebels has once again highlighted fears this week that sarin toxic gas was used by the opposition and not the Assad government.
The prosecutor in the Turkish city of Adana has issued a 132-page indictment, alleging that six men of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham tried to seek out chemicals with the intent to produce the nerve agent, sarin gas, a number of Turkish publications reported.
The main suspect in the case, 35-year-old Syrian-national Hytham Qassap has been charged with “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “attempting to acquire weapons for a terrorist organization.” The other 5, all Turkish nationals are being charged with “attempting to acquire weapons for a terrorist organization.”
The indictment alleges that Qassap tried to setup a network in Turkey in order to obtain chemical materials for the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham Brigades. Citing telephone calls made by the cell, the prosecution believes that the group ordered at least ten tons of chemicals, Al-Alam News Network reports.
The prosecution also dismissed claims that the suspects were unaware of their wrong doing. “The claim that the suspects didn’t know about the possibility of producing sarin nerve gas from the chemicals they tried to buy is not true which was established when they were testifying,” the document reads.
Meanwhile all six suspects have pleaded not guilty. “The suspects have pleaded not guilty saying that they had not been aware the materials they had tried to obtain could have been used to make sarin gas. Suspects have been consistently providing conflicting and incoherent facts on this matter,” the indictment said.
If convicted, Qassab faces a 25 year prison sentence, while his accomplices face 15 years prison terms.
The six men were a part of a group of 11 people arrested in their safe house in Adana on May 23, 2013. Their apprehension came about after surveillance by Turkish police who’d received a tip that Syrian jihadists were trying to acquire two government-regulated military-grade chemical substances. Five of the detained were released from custody after questioning, background checks and after lab tests proved that chemicals seized during the arrest were not sarin gas.