Turkish spy agency denies link to Paris Kurd murders
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Turkey's intelligence service has rejected allegations contained in an online audio recording linking it with the murders of three Kurdish activists in Paris in 2013.
One year after the three female members of the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) were shot dead in central Paris, the new evidence appears to support claims that the assassinations were ordered by Turkish officials.
The audio recording, posted on YouTube on Sunday, January 12, featured an alleged conversation between chief murder suspect Ömer Güney and his purported handlers at the Turkish intelligence agency MIT.
Güney, 30, has been charged by French prosecutors with the murder of Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the PKK, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Söylemez at a Kurdish centre in the heart of the French capital on January 9, 2013.
The conversation is alleged to have taken place before the attack and revolves around potential targets among Kurdish militant leaders as well as tactics to be used by Güney.
“After hearing this recording, we can affirm with certainty that this is the voice of Ömer Güney,” the Federation of Kurdish Associations in France (FEYKA) said in a January 13 statement.
The PKK had previously identified Güney as Sakine Cansiz’s driver and assistant in Paris. French police arrested him shortly after her murder.
'Premeditated political murder'
FEYKA has drawn its own conclusions: “The crime was premeditated. The murderer did not act alone, and he had political intent,” the Kurdish organisation said in its statement.
Several Turkish media outlets picked up on the recording, prompting the Turkish intelligence service to deny any involvement.
“The reports are an operation aimed at tarnishing our organisation which has played an active role in the peace process” with Kurdish militants, Turkey’s spy agency said in a rare public statement released on Wednesday, January 15.
"An internal probe concerning the claims has been launched”, MIT added.
Earlier in the day, another report linking Turkish intelligence to the killings appeared in the Turkish press.
The opposition newspaper Sol published a document purporting to be a November 2012 mission order issued by MIT.
It identified Güney as an agent code named “Legionnaire” operating on behalf of the spy agency.
“We have given him instructions to be on his guard when communicating with us, to get the equipment required for the mission and to make the preparations related to the designated persons,” the document said, adding that 6,000 euros had been sent to agent "Legionnaire".
Pressure on Erdogan
If confirmed, MIT’s involvement in the killings would put considerable pressure on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a close friend of Hakan Fidan, the head of the intelligence service.
On Monday, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag publicly complained about a “smear campaign” designed to further damage the government at a time of political crisis.
In recent months, Erdogan's government has carried out a vast purge of the security services aimed at routing out the Gülen Brotherhood, a powerful Islamic organisation.
The Brotherhood is thought to have widely infiltrated the police and the judiciary, but to have so far failed to gain a foothold in Turkey's spy agency.
“The control of the intelligence service is at stake,” wrote Guillaume Perrier, Le Monde's Istanbul correspondent, in the French daily on January 16th.
According to the French reporter, Erdogan may not be the only one concerned by the latest allegations regarding the murder of the Kurdish activists.
The audio recording also points the finger at French security services by suggesting that the suspected killer may have murdered the activists while under heavy surveillance in Paris.
“French intelligence officers are following me every second,” the man presented as Ömer Güney told his alleged MIT handlers in the recording.
While the audio recording has gone largely unnoticed in France, it may yet sour the mood for French President François Hollande’s official visit to Turkey, scheduled for January 27 and 28.