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Syrian activist jailed in Turkiye on espionage charges

February 21, 2024 at 1:34 pm

Syrian activist and businessman Ahmed Katie [Facebook]

Prominent Syrian activist and businessman Ahmed Katie has been arrested by Turkish authorities on charges of spying for French intelligence. Katie went missing for over two weeks late last year before security forces detained him in mid-December.

According to Turkiye’s Sabah newspaper, Katie is accused of being recruited by France’s external intelligence agency, the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE). Sources allege he was offered asylum for himself and his family in France in exchange for providing false information intended to portray Turkiye negatively.

Specifically, Katie allegedly fabricated incidents to accuse Turkiye of mistreating Syrian refugees and using harsh border security tactics. The report claims he passed fabricated information to foreign media outlets on several occasions.

Turkish authorities also allege Katie covertly obtained private information on foreign citizens in Turkiye and shared it with French intelligence handlers. He reportedly operated as part of a small three-person cell directed by a Paris-based NGO linked to the DGSE.

Katie’s lawyer denies all the espionage allegations made against his client. They have said that they will vigorously contest the charges in Turkish courts. But the recent court hearing extended Katie’s detention, citing the need for further examinations of phones and computers.

The arrest of this high-profile activist – who fled Syria due to security crackdowns on dissenters – has raised concerns. It comes amidst growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Turkiye as the country strains under the pressure of hosting over 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Katie’s case will increase fears that even prominent expatriates lack protection.

Human rights groups have denounced his arrest as the latest example of Turkiye employing security and espionage laws to target vocal critics, especially from immigrant communities, with impunity. Katie’s ongoing detention without trial follows similar cases despite fierce backlash from international observers.

In 2017 Turkish police detained 12 people, including the Turkiye head of rights group Amnesty International, Idil Eser, and other rights activists at a meeting on an island near Istanbul.

READ: Turkey releases local Amnesty chair after 14 detention