Syrian rebel groups sought to buy materials for chemical weapons, prosecutors say



A public prosecutor completed his indictment as part of the probe into the chemicals seized in the southern province of Hatay on Sept. 12, claiming that jihadist Syrian rebel groups were seeking to buy materials that could be used to produce highly toxic sarin gas.
The indictment, which included transcripts of several phone conversations between the suspects involved, said that a 35-year-old Syrian citizen, identified as Hytham Qassap, established a connection with a network in Turkey in order to procure chemical materials for the al-Nusra Front and jihadist Ahrar al-Sham Brigades.
The indictment rejected the legitimacy of the suspects’ claim that they were unaware the chemicals they tried to obtain could be used to produce sarin gas.
“The suspects have pleaded not guilty saying that they had not been aware the materials they had tried to obtain could have been used to make sarin gas. Suspects have been consistenly providing conflicting and incoherent facts on this matter,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors also indicated that Turkish dealers of the chemical materials told the prime suspect Qassap during their phone conversations that two of the eight chemicals he was trying to acquire were subject to state approval. 
The indictment also contained Qassap’s testimony where he confessed his links with the Ahrar al-Sham Brigades and moved to the city of Antakya following the instructions of its leader, Abu Walid. “After I arrived in Antakya, other rebel groups had come into contact with me. While some had asked me for medicine and other humanitarian aid supplies, others wanted to obtain military equipment,” he told prosecutors.  
A total of 11 people were arrested during the investigation launched late May after police received a tip suggesting that some Syrian rebel groups were looking to procure materials that could be used to produce chemical weapons.
Qassap and five Turkish suspects have been arrested while five others have been released. The other Turkish suspects were also released after lab tests proved that chemicals seized during the operation were not sarin gas.


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