More than a dozen suspected militants, including some from a radical Islamic group, have disappeared following their conditional release from custody last week, forcing an appeals court to issue new arrest warrants, authorities and reports said Friday.
Legal experts and opposition leaders have sharply criticized the courts and the Islamic-leaning government since the release of dozens of people convicted of terrorism, murder, rape and organized crime. They were freed pending the outcome of an appeal under a new law that restricts the time suspects can be held while awaiting the final verdict on the case.
The Anatolia news agency, citing police, said nine suspected members of Turkish Hezbollah, who were convicted in 2009 on charges of killing 188 people and attempting to set up an Islamic state in the country's Kurdish-dominated southeast, are now missing. The group takes its name from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah but shares no formal links. It said also missing were at least three suspected rebels from the PKK terrorist organization.
An appeals court in Ankara said Friday it has ordered the arrest of all released prisoners who fail to report to police routinely. The suspects were also banned from traveling abroad but there are fears some might have illegally crossed into neighboring Iran, Iraq or Syria. According to the new law, which came into effect Jan. 1, suspects can no longer be held for longer than 10 years. The government defended the law as a measure to speed up the judicial process but admitted that the system remains far too slow.
Televised images of celebrations by supporters of freed Hezbollah militants last week angered many Turks, who still remember gruesome images of bodies discovered by police in several Hezbollah dungeons in 2000.
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