Syrian jailed in Turkey for spying on refugee camps

ISTANBUL Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:53pm EST

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Syrian man was jailed for 12 and a half years in Turkey on Wednesday for espionage, in what media reports said was a plot to abduct former Syrian military officers who had defected and were sheltering in refugee camps.

Sbahi Hamdo, described as a professor at the Faculty of Medicine in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, was accused of taking photographs of refugee camps and military facilities in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, the state-run Anatolian news agency reported.

He was arrested in October with a Turkish man, identified only as Mursel A, the news agency said.

A court convicted both men of "obtaining secret state information with the aim of political and military espionage." The Turkish man was sentenced to six years and three months in jail, Anatolian said.

Officials at the court and Hatay's governor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Describing Hamdo as a Syrian intelligence operative nicknamed "Doctor", the Today's Zaman newspaper said he was involved in a plot to abduct senior Syrian military officers holed up in a refugee camp in Hatay after defecting from President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Both men denied the charges. Hamdo said he had been trying to track down a relative, Anatolian reported.

Dozens of Syrian military officers have defected to Turkey during the 20-month civil war, some of them joining the opposition push to oust Assad.

Around 120,000 civilians are also sheltering in refugee camps in Hatay and other provinces of southern Turkey bordering Syria.

(Editing by Nick Tattersall and Robin Pomeroy)

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