Carlos Ghosn escape: Turkey comes under intense fire

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Turkish police officers escort suspects, accused of involvement of Nissan's former CEO Carlos Ghosn passage through Istanbul, after he fled Japan, in Istanbul, Friday. (AP)
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TC-RZA, the private jet used during the escape of ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon through Turkey. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 January 2020

Carlos Ghosn escape: Turkey comes under intense fire

  • Turkey acts contrary to the spirit of an international operation, says security expert

JEDDAH: Turkey has come under intense fire after the stunning escape of ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon via Istanbul.

Security experts have called into question Turkey’s international responsibilities.

To make matters worse for Istanbul, a former Interpol official, who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity, said Turkey had dismissed the organization’s Red Notices many times in the past.

“Turkey’s Justice Ministry ignored the presence of red notice for many criminals who were sought by Interpol and it even didn’t accept giving a temporary arrest decision for the catalogue crimes. It is just a reflex for not taking any responsibility,” he said, adding that: “Ghosn’s case showed us that Turkey acts contrary to the spirit of an international operation. Under normal circumstances, it should have given its decision of arrest within hours without letting the suspect to flee.”

Video by AFP showing Turkish policemen taking seven people to an Istanbul court after they were arrested on suspicion of aiding Ghosn escape from Japan.
A prominent security expert and an ex-military officer based in Ankara spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity and said that the preliminary findings of the investigation show that there is an internationally organized crime gang behind it.

Turkish private aircraft operator MNG Jet, which filed a criminal complaint, said on Friday that its planes were used illegally by the international fugitive.

An employee from the company had admitted falsifying records and did not include Ghosn’s name in the general declaration form about the flight.

But Ghosn’s freedom could come at the cost of the liberty of those who helped him.

Seven Turkish nationals including four pilots, who were detained on Thursday under the investigation of Turkish Interior Ministry, were sent to court on Friday.

If they are founded guilty, they will be charged with Article 79 of the Turkish Penal Code that regulates migrant smuggling and human trafficking. If sentenced, they are facing a prison sentence of three to eight years.

Turkey has been an Interpol member since June 13, 1956.

A Turkish lawyer based in the Malatya province said people who are sought by the red notice should be considered criminals by all members of Interpol.

“Helping these suspects to flee from Turkey also constitutes a crime of complicity under article 238 of the Turkish Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence from six months to five years,” he told Arab News.

The lawyer added that Interpol serves as a communication channel between the member countries on cooperation in criminal matters, but it doesn’t have binding authority over its members.

On its website, Interpol states: “The legal basis for a Red Notice is an arrest warrant or court order issued by the judicial authorities in the country concerned. Many of our member countries consider a Red Notice to be a valid request for provisional arrest.”


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”