Last Updated: Sun Feb 12, 2012 15:05 pm (KSA) 12:05 pm (GMT)

Turkey detains five people suspected of turning over dissident colonel to Syria

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also urged his once close friend Assad to quit. (File photo)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also urged his once close friend Assad to quit. (File photo)

A Turkish court Sunday placed in detention five people suspected of turning over to Syria a founder of the Free Syrian Army who is reported to have since been executed, reports said.

The suspects ordered held by the court in the southern city of Adana include a member of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), the Anatolia news agency reported.

They are being investigated for “political espionage” and for deprivation of liberty in the case of colonel Hussein Harmush and Mustafa Kassum, it said.

The two men were taken out of a refugee camp in Altinozu, Hatay province, near the Syrian border “by force” and handed over to Syrian security forces, the Adana prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Friday.

In June 2011, Harmush became the first Syrian military officer to publicly declare his opposition to President Bashar al-Assad regime’s deadly crackdown on protesters as he spoke to AFP in the Turkish village of Guvecci.

He left Syria seeking exile in Turkey, where he established the Brigade of Free Officers, a group of dozens of army deserters later absorbed into the Free Syrian Army headed by Riyadh al-Asaad.

In September, following his handover to Syrian security forces, his “confessions” were aired on Syrian national television.

On January 30, the Syrian League for Human Rights said that Harmush had been executed.

“An air force intelligence unit last week carried out a sentence to shoot dead officer Hussein Harmush,” the non-governmental group said in a statement, which could not be immediately confirmed.

Turkey is home to some 7,500 Syrians who have fled al-Assad’s deadly crackdown on opponents that has left more than 6,000 people dead since mid-March according to human rights groups.

Once a close ally of Syria, Turkey has since been at the forefront of international criticism of the Damascus regime.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also urged his once close friend Assad to quit.

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