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US lists suspect in probe shut down by pro-Erdoğan prosecutor on terror list as associate of IRGC-Quds Force

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The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Wednesday registered Hakkı Selçuk Şanlı, a suspect in an investigation in Turkey involving the Turkish-based activities of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) that was shut down by a prosecutor later promoted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list for being part of an international oil smuggling and money laundering network led by IRGC-QF.

On Wednesday OFAC designated an oil smuggling network led by IRGC-QF official Behnam Shahriyari and former IRGC-QF official Rostam Ghasemi.

According to a press release by OFAC, the network has acted as a critical element of Iran’s oil revenue generation as well as its support for proxy militant groups that continue to perpetuate conflict and suffering throughout the region.

Senior levels of the Russian Federation government and state-run economic organs also backed the network, according to OFAC.

According to OFAC, Şanlı, Abdülhamid Çelik and Seyyid Cemal Gündüz are IRGC-QF associates and “have worked with Shahriyari to conceal the source of proceeds from illicit Iranian oil and petrochemical sales.”

On behalf of the IRGC-QF, Şanlı, Çelik and Gündüz concealed the transfer and sale of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and its equivalent in cash, OFAC said.

“Sanli cofounded an IRGC-associated extremist organization known as Tawhid-Salam in the 1990s, of which Celik was also a member. Tawhid-Salam received funding through close collaboration with IRGC-QF finance officials operating in Turkey. Sanli and Celik served prison sentences in Turkey for their roles in the murder of two opponents of the Iranian government. Celik also worked with Tawhid-Salam, supplying a bomb for a 2011 attack in Istanbul which injured several people,” an OFAC press release said.

Erdoğan appointed prosecutor İrfan Fidan, who shut down the three-year-long investigation into the Turkish-based IRGC, to a position on Turkey’s highest court.

The investigation targeted top IRGC operatives and their alleged Turkish associates.

Investigators, prosecutors and judges who were previously involved in the criminal probe were all sacked and later arrested on trumped-up charges as part of a crackdown on the police and judiciary that followed a graft probe targeting Erdoğan’s cronies.

However, once Fidan was appointed to the case, he derailed the investigation by asking the Iranian Embassy whether the suspects were their operatives, exposing the probe.

Şanlı was one of the suspects in this probe, and the police were following his activities as they had managed to put a bug in his car.

After summoning Şanlı for questioning, Fidan informed him of the bug and ruined the investigation, according to the police chiefs who worked on the case and spoke to the TR724 news website.

In 2021 Erdoğan appointed Fidan as a new judge to serve on the Constitutional Court.

Tevhid-Selam network

The investigation into the Tevhid-Selam network, an IRGC-QF-affiliated, Turkish-based extremist organization was first launched in 2010 after Kamile Yazıcıoğlu, a 49-year-old woman who had fled from her abusive husband, informed Bursa’s counterterrorism unit that her husband, Hüseyin Avni Yazıcıoğlu, had been working for Iranian intelligence and provided documents as evidence to back up her claims.

According to documents obtained by prosecutors during the investigation, the Tevhid-Selam network was linked to the Tevhid magazine and the Selam newspaper and had been involved in several unsolved murders in Turkey, including those of Bahriye Üçok, Muammer Aksoy, Abdi İpekçi, Ahmet Kışlalı and Uğur Mumcu.

Following purges in the Turkish judiciary soon after the revelation of a graft scandal in December 2013 in which ministers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and figures close to Erdoğan were implicated, the AKP government stifled the Tevhid-Selam probe. The former judge and prosecutors in the case, former judge Dursun Ali Gündoğdu and prosecutors Adnan Çimen and Sadrettin Sarıkaya, were dismissed.

In the meantime a massive smear campaign was launched in the media to discredit the probe as government officials rushed to downplay the significance of the evidence gathered.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ infamously claimed that the Tevhid Selam network did not exist.

Police chiefs in charge of the investigation such as Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Ömer Köse, Oktay Bulduk and Yurt Atayün as well as lower-ranking police chiefs were arrested, along with journalist Gültekin Avcı, who was closely following the case.

In the trial that was concluded in 2020, nine police officers were sentenced to life in prison. They are now in Silivri Prison in İstanbul, which is known for the isolation imposed on the country’s political prisoners.

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