The trial of 49 defendants, including senior members of the terrorist group Daesh, began Monday in the northwestern city of Kocaeli. The legal proceeding of the defendants focuses on their activities in Turkey and assistance to Daesh militants in Syria and Iraq.
One defendant remains at large and 25 others are being held in jail with the rest of the defendants out on bail.
All face prison terms of between four and 22 years. The defendants were brought to the Sixth High Criminal Court in the city, an industrial hub east of Istanbul, under tight security measures, while police and gendarme troops thoroughly searched those who wanted to watch the trial.
The defendants face charges of running a terrorist group, membership of a terrorist group and spreading propaganda for a terrorist group. Prosecutors say that the suspects, who formed a secret network, were careful to draw scrutiny and communicated with each other through encrypted messaging apps like TrueCrypt, Conversation and Chat With. The indictment against the defendants also includes bizarre details, like videos found in cellphones of defendants that contain "ruqyah," a type of exorcism ritual.
Cem Ertürk, the Kocaeli "leader" for Daesh, was among the defendants who invoked a remorse law that provides a lenient sentence in exchange for information about the crimes the group committed. Ertürk told police that he and others did not recognize Turkish courts.
A 1,384-page indictment says the Daesh network in Kocaeli was founded in 2013 first to produce Daesh propaganda and that Cem Ertürk succeeded two previous "leaders," including Mustafa Sercan Öztürk who left Turkey to join Daesh in Syria and Iraq. The indictment also details suspects' connections to other prominent members of the terrorist group in Turkey, including Halis Bayancuk, who is also known as Abu Hanzala. Prosecutors say the network was divided into two branches, and one was tasked with "religious education" while the other branch sought to recruit new members. They are accused of setting up so-called religious teaching classes where recruits were brainwashed with Daesh ideology and watched propaganda videos and read documents containing speeches of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to Cem Ertürk's testimony, the group also set up their own "school" so they wouldn't send their children to public schools. The group was also active in arranging illegal journeys to Syria and Iraq to join the terrorist group's members there and provided aid to families of militants who died in those countries.
More than 300 people have been killed in attacks claimed by Daesh in Turkey, where the terrorist group has targeted civilians in suicide bombings, as well as rocket and gun attacks. Turkish security forces have been involved in a long-running campaign to thwart the Daesh threat. Some 2,000 people have been arrested and 7,000 others deported in operations against Daesh in Turkey, while around 70,000 people have been denied entry to Turkey over their suspected links to the terrorist group. Security forces have also foiled at least 10 attack plots. Figures show that some 18,500 suspects are currently being monitored for links to the terrorist organization after being identified at airports upon arrival.