Turkish court convicts 24 Hizbullah suspects on terror charges

Turkish court convicts 24 Hizbullah suspects on terror charges

A Turkish court has convicted 24 suspects in a 12-year long case probing the leaders of the fundamentalist terrorist organization Hizbullah which is believed to be killed and tortured dozens across country it considered sympathizing with outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in early 1990s, Today's Zaman reported.

The 13th İstanbul High Criminal Court sentenced on Friday eight suspects, including alleged military leader of Hizbullah Hacı İnan, to life sentence without parole.

Total of 27 suspects stood accused before the court but only one of them was jailed. After a series of delays in their trials, 18 Hizbullah members were released in January last year after the introduction of new regulations limiting the period an accused person could be imprisoned without conviction.

Most of the suspects who were released in January fled the country, creating widespread public outrage, as most of them had been convicted of a number of brutal killings and assassinations in first-instance courts.

The Turkish Hizbullah is a Kurdish, Sunni fundamentalist organization that arose in the late 1980s in southeast Turkey. In the early 1990s, when the government's conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was at its most fierce, Hizbullah began attacking suspected PKK sympathizers. The group has mostly been inactive since the mid 1990s, when the group's top leaders were either killed or arrested in a major crackdown.

It was broken up, and its leaders were arrested in 2000 -- after police unearthed the bodies of more than 60 people the group had tortured and killed -- in raids across the country. The Turkish Hizbullah has no links to the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Three Hizbullah suspects who were handed down a life sentence are fugitive. The court convicted Hacı İnan, Emin Ekici, Abdulsettar Yıldızbakan, Burhan Ekineker, İlyas Kutulman, İbrahim Evliyaoğlu, Mehmet Bayram Eren and Sabahattin Alkan on charges of "completely or partially demolishing Constitution of Turkish Republic."

Due to the nature of their crimes, the court ruled out that the eight suspects could not enjoy parole and have to serve their prison terms "until death."

The court also sentenced suspect Mehmet Kanlıpıçak to 12 years 6 months on charges of being a part of a terrorist organization, Mehmet Cemil Erez, Abdulselam Geşgin, Ali Atım, Hüseyin Hilmi Hocalar and Murat Kara to 10 years, Abdullah Beldek, Ahmet Kontuk, Enver Kılıçaslan, Salih Kişi and Yunus Eser to 7 years 6 months, Benan Kutulman, Hayrettin Geşgin, Mehmet Emin Geşgin, Nizamettin Arık and Bidayet Kılıç to 6 years 3 months.

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