The head of the Turkish organization that sponsored the 2010 flotilla to the Gaza Strip is being investigated for allegedly financing al-Qaida through his organization, the Turkish daily Haberturk reported on Friday.
Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) President Bulent Yildirim is being investigated by a specially authorized prosecutor in Istanbul over allegations of “providing financial aid to al-Qaida via his foundation” in absolute secrecy, without official numbering and identification, Haberturk reported.
The IHH is a Turkish NGO which sponsored and organized the 2010 flotilla which sought to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos who commandeered the lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, came under attack by IHH activists. In the ensuing clash, the Israelis shot and killed nine activists, causing a further deterioration in relations between Israel and Turkey, with the latter demanding an Israeli apology, compensation to the victims, and a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
Yıldırım was the organization’s head during the Marmara flotilla incident.
A specially authorized prosecutor in Istanbul has been leading a probe into the IHH and into Yildirim, Haberturk reported.
According to the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, which has close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, the IHH is a "radical Islamic organization which besides its legitimate humanitarian activities supports radical Islamic terrorist networks."
"In recent years it has prominently supported Hamas (through the Union of Good) and has provided logistical support and funding to global jihad networks," the Intelligence Center said.
According to the Intelligence Center, IHH’s orientation is radical-Islamic and anti-American, and it is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ parent movement. "IHH supports Hamas and does not hide the connection between them. Hamas also considers its links to IHH and Turkey to be extremely important, and regards Turkey as a target audience for its propaganda network," the center said.
In 2006, a Danish research institute called the Danish Institute for International Studies conducted a study which reported that in the past IHH had connections with al-Qaida and global jihad operatives. The well-documented study was conducted by Evan Kohlman, an American researcher who specializes in al-Qaida and related subjects. It deals with the involvement of Islamic charity funds and foundations in supporting terrorism.
According to the study, Turkish authorities began investigating IHH at least in December 1997, after having received information that senior IHH figures had purchased automatic weapons from radical Islamic organizations. The office of the organization in Istanbul was consequently raided and activists were arrested. During the raid, the Turkish security forces found weapons, explosives, instructions for making explosives and a flag with a jihad message. An examination of the documents found in IHH office indicated that IHH members were planning to take part in jihad activities in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya.
The study quotes a French intelligence report stating that in the mid-1990s, Yildirim, as IHH head, was directly involved in recruiting "veteran soldiers” to organize jihad activities. According to the French report, a number of operatives were sent by IHH into war zones in Islamic countries to gain combat experience. The report also stated that IHH transferred money, "caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries.
According to the study, following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Yildirim and IHH played a key role in anti-Western incitement among Turkish Muslims. At the end of 2000, IHH organized protests against the attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein during which Israeli and American flags were burned. In December 2004, IHH organized an anti-American march in Istanbul. During the march, Yildirim told the Turkish Anatolia News Agency that the intelligence cooperation between the U.S., Britain and Turkey had to stop, otherwise IHH would organize actions in front of every consulate, and if necessary organize 50,000 or 100,000 people in front of the American consulate. At a demonstration held in December 2004, anti-American slogans were shouted, including, "Murderer sent by the murderous United States, get out of the Middle East,” and "Long live the resistance.”