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Turkey’s alleged ISIL leader sentenced to 12 years behind bars

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Halis Bayancuk, who is accused of being the Turkey leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been sentenced by an İstanbul court to 12 years, six months in prison on charges of “establishing and leading an armed terrorist group,” the Diken news website reported on Monday.

The Bakırköy 16th High Criminal Court sentenced Bayancuk, also known by the code name Abu Hanzala, following identical sentencing on the same charges by a court in the northwestern province of Sakarya in September.

Multiple sentences handed down to Bayancuk on similar charges earlier prompted the 5th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals to merge the cases against him.

Behind bars since he was detained on May 30, 2017 in İstanbul, Bayancuk has denied the charge of serving as ISIS’s Turkey commander.  Although a court ruled for his release on April 9, he was rearrested hours later following an objection by a prosecutor.

Since 2009, Bayancuk has been detained at least a half-dozen times in Turkey, only to be released because of a lack of evidence or problems involving the charges against him.

He and his wife were arrested after police raided their home and seized a number of ISIL-linked documents, both digital and non-digital, in 2015. He was released in March 2016.

A year later, he was detained once again after threatening the staff of the İstanbul Governor’s Office in an online video because a meeting he had planned to attend was canceled by the authorities.

Bayancuk had also been arrested in 2011 and 2014 for membership in al-Qaeda and was released both times after spending a couple of months in prison.

More than 300 people have been killed and hundreds of others have been injured in Turkey in at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings and four armed assaults organized by ISIL, which was declared a terrorist organization by Turkey in 2013.

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