ISIS Commander Obtains Clemency In Turkey Trial And Receives Reduced Sentence
Abdullah Bozkurt / Stockholm
A Tajik jihadist who worked with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former head of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), obtained leniency at sentencing hearing for his trial in Turkey , receiving less than a third of the imprisonment requested by prosecutors.
Ahmad Suleiman Ibn Muhammad, allegedly the right-hand man of Baghdadi, who helped him settle in a safe house in Syria near the Turkish border, was sentenced to eight years and four months on December 22, 2021, benefiting from ‘a huge reduction in his recommended sentence.
When he was indicted on May 25, 2021 after his arraignment on May 2, 2021, the public prosecutor asked the court to convict him and send him to prison to serve more than 27 years on multiple charges. . Yet the panel of judges who heard the trial disagreed and ruled in favor of a reduced sentence, citing the suspect’s remorse.
The three-judge panel of the 24th Istanbul High Criminal Court allowed Muhammad to benefit from Article 221 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), called the âactive repentanceâ law, which reduces or cancels prison sentences suspects who cooperate with investigators and provide information about the group to which they are charged to be connected.
It is not clear what information Muhammad provided that was deemed useful as the ruling did not spell this out, but it does correspond to a general pattern of the systematic failure of the Turkish criminal justice system when it comes to to suppress armed jihadist groups. Many ISIS suspects are simply released after brief detentions, and those convicted have their sentences overturned in most cases.
A phone seized during Muhammad’s detention on April 28, 2021 in Istanbul’s AtaÅehir neighborhood contained dozens of photographs that showed him present during ISIS executions, carrying an automatic rifle and wearing a suicide vest.
A police report dated May 1, 2021 identified him as being involved in clashes and armed conflict. He lost his right eye and his right leg when he was injured in an air raid in 2017 and started using a prosthetic leg. He was instrumental in the transfer of Baghdadi to a safe place in Syria from Iraq and has appeared in violent videos released by ISIS.
One page of the indictment includes photographs showing Ahmad Suleiman Ibn Muhammad involved in a conflict:
In his defense through a translator, Muhammad, an ethnic Tajik who holds Afghan nationality, said he had never had a problem with Turkey and called for his release, citing the nine children whose he had custody. He admitted to coming to Istanbul in 2014 to enter Syria and join ISIS after establishing contact with a Tajik national identified only as Musab.
He quickly rose through the ranks and commanded 60 fighters in his unit in 2017. He was subordinate to Abu Saleh al-Iraqi, the ISIS commander in Raqqah. He also admitted that the man holding a sword in his right hand and carrying a gun over his shoulders was him, although he denied having participated in the executions.
He said he asked ISIS leaders for permission to leave Syria due to injuries and that he was allowed to travel to Turkey in 2017. He denied having any contact with the ISIS. Islamic State thereafter and claimed that it had led a peaceful life ever since. His lawyer said his client was not involved in any terrorist conspiracy in Turkey and that there was no evidence to suggest that he was one of the leaders of ISIS.
âI helped Turkey. â¦ I want to stay in Turkey, work here and be useful to people and to Turkey. I think I would be helpful if I stayed here. I want to be acquitted â, declared Muhammad in concluding his testimony.
The indictment charged him with two counts, one of leading an armed terrorist organization for which the prosecutor requested a maximum sentence of 22 years, six months’ imprisonment, and the other for falsifying official documents, for which he risked up to five years. The judges acquitted him of the charge of false passport resulting from his entry into Turkey on December 31, 2014 on a false Russian passport in the name of Zarobiddin Kholeov, while reducing the sentence for terrorism to eight years and four months.
Turkish officials do not disclose the number of successful convictions in ISIS cases and refuse to answer parliamentary questions asking for such information. Instead, they often release figures on the number of detentions and arrests, which in many cases result in release and acquittal.
Another page from Ahmad Suleiman Ibn Muhammad’s indictment:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan announced on October 10, 2019 that there were around 5,500 ISIS terrorists in Turkish prisons, half of whom were foreign nationals. Yet on October 25, 2019, Justice Minister AbdÃ¼lhamit GÃ¼l told a press conference that there were 1,163 people arrested and convicted by ISIS in prison.
Responding to a parliamentary question on July 21, 2020, GÃ¼l said 1,195 ISIS operatives were in prison as convicts or suspects on remand. Among them, 791 were foreign nationals, he added. He declined to say how many had actually been convicted.