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Turkish Radical Leftists Acquitted of ‘Sack Attack’ on US Soldier

Two members of the Youth Union of Turkey (TGB), a left-wing nationalist organization, were acquitted on Friday in the trial, where they were accused of trying to put a sack over the head of an American soldier on the U.S. military air base in southern Turkey, in protest of 2003’s notorious “sack attack” committed by U.S. troops on Turkish soldiers in Iraq.

The pair, who are reportedly students at the University of Cukurova in the province of Adana, where the Incirlik air base is located, attempted to put a sack over the head of U.S. soldier Nicholas Allen Rockwell in 2016.

The incident took place after the celebrations of Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day marked on April 23. Yalcin Semir Akarsu and Cenk Kizilirmak attended the event organized on the U.S. air base of Incirlik.

After the ceremony ended, Akarsu and Kizilirmak ran into Rockwell. In a video filmed by Kizilirmak, Akarsu is seen talking to Rockwell, asking in English if he is an American soldier, which Rockwell responds with “Yes”. Then Akarsu starts speaking Turkish and tells Rockwell about 2003’s scandal, where U.S. troops captured Turkish soldiers in Iraq and put sacks over their heads, while Kizilirmak translates his sentences into English.

“Your country is responsible for the terrorist attacks in Turkey. You cannot leave your base but we are getting in your prison that you can’t leave and putting this sack over your head,” Akarsu continues. Then he tries to put a sack over the head of Rockwell as the soldier pushes him back. The TGB released the video on Facebook afterwards.

Akarsu and Kizilirmak, who were briefly detained and released pending trial, were charged with “trespassing on military zone” and “insult”, with prosecutors seeking up to 12 years.

At the sentencing hearing held on Friday, both defendants were acquitted of all charges by the Adana court.

The pair purportedly had intended to protest the 2003 incident, where 11 Turkish soldiers were reportedly abducted and interrogated for 60 hours in the northern Iraqi town of Sulaimaniya by U.S. troops, who hooded them in the manner of Al Qaeda suspects.

The occurence caused tensions between Ankara and Washington at the time. While the Turkish media widely criticized the event, the U.S. government claimed that the Turkish soldiers had been involved in a plot to assassinate an American-backed Iraqi official. Turkey denied the allegation.

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