Turkish opposition party seeks probe into paramilitary contractor

Turkish opposition party seeks probe into paramilitary contractor
This picture taken on December 26, 2018 shows a column of Turkish tanks and military vehicles being transported into the rebel-held town of al-Rai in northern Syria. (AFP)
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Updated 05 June 2021

Turkish opposition party seeks probe into paramilitary contractor

Turkish opposition party seeks probe into paramilitary contractor
  • SADAT was set up by a general and former presidential adviser
  • Fugitive mob boss Sedat Peker claimed that SADAT was training Al-Nusra Front fighters and arming the group by diverting Peker’s aid convoy heading to Syrian Turkmen

JEDDAH: Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is seeking a parliamentary inquiry into a paramilitary contractor, following allegations it was training militants in Syria.

Fugitive mob boss Sedat Peker claimed that SADAT, which has close ties with the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was training Al-Nusra Front fighters and arming the group by diverting Peker’s aid convoy heading to Syrian Turkmen.

SADAT International Defense Consultancy was formed in 2012 by Adnan Tanriverdi, a retired general and former military adviser to Erdogan.

Its stated mission is to establish “defense collaboration and defense industry cooperation among Islamic countries to help the Islamic world by providing strategic consultancy, defense and security training, and supply services to armed forces and internal security forces of Islamic countries.”

It offers courses on conventional and unconventional warfare tactics, armored vehicle hunting, sharpshooting, mortar forward surveillance and other areas.

Unal Cevikoz, Istanbul deputy of the CHP and a former ambassador, filed a request for a parliamentary inquiry about SADAT.

He reiterated allegations that SADAT had violated UN Security Council rulings with its activities in war-torn countries, especially in Syria and Libya, by providing military training to civilians, establishing alternative armies, dispatching mercenaries and sending illegal weapons.

“These claims will deeply undermine our country’s international prestige and will result in challenging consequences for Turkey,” he said. “These allegations about SADAT concern countries where the Turkish Armed Forces remain active. Therefore, they carry risks for the reputation of not only Turkey but also its army. They will also push people to challenge the legitimacy of the Turkish Armed Forces’ presence in those territories.”

SADAT employs between 50 and 200 retired officers from different specialties, with many of them dismissed from the army due to their Islamic allegiance.

The CHP said the claims about SADAT should not only be viewed through a military and security dimension, but also their potential consequences for Turkey’s relations with countries that it has military agreements with.

The SADAT allegations have sparked debate about whether there is control over different armed units and if each segment has begun establishing its own paramilitary group in semi-official or informal ways.

Tanriverdi was a chief adviser to Erdogan between 2016 and 2018, attending a critical summit before the 2018 operation Afrin in Syria, along with Turkey’s National Intelligence Service head Hakan Fidan. He is also known as someone who carries weight in presidential policy choices.

“All previous parliamentary questions about SADAT remained unanswered,” Cevikoz said. “Therefore, it is now an obligation for all of us to set up an investigation commission about this company’s activities abroad.”

Neither the government nor the defense minister has so far responded to parliamentary questions from the opposition about the contractor, and no investigation has been launched into allegations about SADAT for years.

The CHP wants the public to be informed about SADAT and for all its international military activities be investigated, whether it provided military training in countries like Syria, Libya and Somalia, and whether it dispatched illegal weapons in violation of UN Security Council rulings.

In 2018, Turkish opposition politician Meral Aksener alleged that SADAT set up armed training camps in the Konya and Tokat provinces. But her request to open an investigation about these activities was met with silence.

SADAT was put on the domestic agenda following claims that its members contributed to the popular mobilization during the 2016 failed coup attempt, leading many people to label it a “shadow army.”

Peker has been a prominent mafia figure since the 1990s and fled the country last year to avoid a criminal investigation.

He has leveled accusations of corruption, mismanagement and connections to organized crime against Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

He claimed to have arranged to send military equipment to Syrian Turkmen and shared the plan with an AKP lawmaker in order to receive permission to dispatch the trucks in 2015.

He also claimed to have opposed sending aid to Al-Nusra Front because the group was fighting Turkmen minorities in Syria. He said the trucks were diverted and sent to Al-Nusra fighters instead by a group within SADAT.

“They diverted aid trucks for Turkmen to Al-Nusra under my name, but I didn’t send them — SADAT did. I was informed about it by one of our Turkmen friends,” Peker said in a video.