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Turkey opens first case against oil smuggling with Syria

A court started to hear the first legal case of oil smuggling, revealing the dilemma between national security and the fight against radical Islamists.
Blue jerry cans usually used by smugglers ferrying fuel smuggled into Turkey from over the border in Syria are stacked in front of a shop for sale in Turkish border town of Hacipasa, Hatay province, September 8, 2013. Each night, a stream of beaten-up cars and trucks weighed down with blue jerry cans rumbles along the muddy lane, ferrying fuel smuggled into Turkey from over the border in Syria. The thousands of liters of diesel that make their way by cover of darkness to Turkey's southern Hatay province are
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REYHANLI, Turkey — A court in the Turkish border town Reyhanli has begun hearing the first case of oil smuggling from Syria, which has brought Turkey under intense international pressure. Al-Monitor was provided full access to the indictment and the transcript of the first open public hearing, which took place Sept. 15. As the judge has not yet decided the case, Al-Monitor was strictly advised to only report on the generic themes of what the prosecutor detailed with extreme precision and unquestionable evidence.

The case lays out how a small village with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants on the border with Syria — called the Besaslan village attached to Reyhanli — transformed itself into a sort of cooperative where everyone mutually agreed to take part in illegal oil smuggling. The families who don’t want to actively participate are given hush money — 1,500 Turkish lira weekly ($663), which comes to a considerable amount in monthly terms (6,000 Turkish lira, or $2,650). It is a skillfully organized network where even family ties are overridden by the alleged chief of the network, referred to as A.B. The indictment also lays out how border patrols take part, exploiting their privileged status to benefit from the smuggling.

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