Thirty-five suspected Daesh militants accused of planning attacks on Shiite and Sunni mosques, and the Turkish Parliament, are facing multiple life sentences.
While seven of the suspects remain at large, 28 others were arrested in December in operations by Istanbul police. Six of the suspects are accused of plotting terrorist attacks, membership to a terrorist group, and “attempting to overthrow constitutional order,” which carries the heaviest punishment with a sentencing of aggravated lifetime imprisonment.
Suspects are accused of doing reconnaissance work at the Zeynebiye Mosque in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece district and the Jafari Shiite community mosque, whose most members live in Turkey.
They are also accused of planning an attack targeting the Kocatepe Mosque in the capital Ankara, where senior politicians and ministers often attend prayers and the Turkish Parliament.
Daesh was subject to one of the biggest crackdowns last Sunday when more than 700 suspects were detained in nationwide operations. The operations came about one month after a Daesh gunman killed 39 people at an Istanbul night club on New Year’s Eve.
Thirty-five suspects detained in an earlier operation await trial as the indictment against the suspects was sent to an Istanbul court for approval.
Prosecutor Mehmet Şenay Baygın detailed the structure of the Daesh terrorist organization in Turkey and gave evidence of surveillance operations the group conducted in the country.
One of the suspects, identified as Selim S., traveled to Ankara from Istanbul in October 2016 and did “reconnaissance” work at the Kocatepe Mosque, a local branch of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and did the same in Parliament’s courtyard before returning to Istanbul on the same day. The suspect changed his usual wear, shaved his beard and did not contact anyone during his brief stay in Ankara, the prosecutor said.
The indictment states that suspects were ordered to carry out attacks in Turkey by a senior Turkish militant of the terrorist group code named Abu Darda al-Turki who is known to be in Syria.
The Sabah newspaper reported that Sunday’s crackdown came after intelligence revealed that the terrorist group was planning to carry out attacks during the heated campaign process for the upcoming referendum on changes to the Turkish Constitution that will give more powers to the administration for a more efficient anti-terror fight.
Since the emergence of Daesh as a terrorist group in war-torn Syria, Turkey has detained over 5,000 Daesh suspects and deported over 3,290 foreign terrorist fighters from 95 countries and refused more than 38,269 individuals’ entry to Turkey.
Frustrated over the rise of Daesh in war-torn Syria, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield last year in a bid to help Syrian opposition forces recapture towns from the terrorist group and prevent a spillover of violence from Daesh-controlled towns near the Syrian-Turkish border.