Mon Jun 1, 2015 12:30PM
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (© AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (© AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a "heavy price" is looming for the newspaper which published video footage purportedly showing the country’s state intelligence agency helping send weapons to militants in neighboring Syria.

"The slander against the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and the illegitimate operation (against its trucks) is an espionage activity at one point," Erdogan told state-run TRT television network late on Sunday.

"This newspaper was also involved in this espionage activity. The person who made the story will pay a heavy price. I will not let him get away with it," the Turkish president said.

On May 29, center-left Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet posted on its website a video, allegedly showing trucks belonging to MIT being inspected by security officers.

 

The inspectors then spot cardboard boxes inside the metallic container with the “fragile” marking on them. They open the boxes, but find a considerable amount of munitions hidden in crates below boxes of medicine.

Cumhuriyet said the trucks were carrying around 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of grenade launchers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons. 

Meanwhile, Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief Can Dundar has responded to Erodgan’s rhetoric, tweeting, "We are not civil servants but journalists. Our duty is not to hide the state's dirty secrets but to call it to account in the name of people."

An armed Turkish police officer stands guard outside the Cumhuriyet daily newspaper building in Istanbul, Turkey, on January 14, 2015. (© AFP)

 

"The person who committed this crime will pay a heavy price," he said in reference to Erdogan. "We will not let him get away with it."

Earlier this month, Ankara arrested four prosecutors, who had ordered the search of a Syrian-bound convoy of MIT trucks loaded with arms and ammunition back in January 2014. The trucks were stopped and searched near the Syrian border in the southern Turkish provinces of Hatay and Adana at the time.

Erdogan has denounced the interception as well as a string of leaks in the media, saying they were engineered by supporters of his rival, Fethullah Gulen, to undermine his government. 

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied any involvement.  

The Turkish government has on numerous occasions denied support for terrorist groups operating inside Syria. However, the claims have been refuted by a host of reports.

The photo shows leader of the militant Faylaq al-Rahman brigade, Abdul Naser Shmeir (C), addressing his troops during a military parade in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region on May 30, 2015. (© AFP)

 

On May 25, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said militants are currently being trained and equipped in Turkey’s central city of Kirsehir under a joint Ankara-Washington program. 

The mission officially started last week, and is aimed at training more than 15,000 foreign-backed militants in a three-year time period. There are reportedly over 120 US soldiers in Turkey for the purpose.

MP/NN/HMV