Tahrir al-Sham folds “treason” file from media limelight, An attempt to restore relations

Leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani (Edited by Enab Baladi)

Leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani (Edited by Enab Baladi)

A A A

Enab Baladi – Hassan Ibrahim

In the past few days, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which has military control in Idlib, has been releasing several of its leaders who were previously arrested on charges of “communicating and collaborating” with internal and external parties.

The release was accompanied by overlooking the firing of gunshots in celebration of the detainees’ release, as well as a visit by the leader of the HTS, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, to some of the prominent leaders. This was followed by a speech in which he talked about the violations that occurred during the investigations inside prisons as a “crime against the brothers,” according to his description.

The file of “infiltration and treason” disrupted the HTS group, throwing its top leaders into prisons. Amidst all this, there were attempts to contain the issue media-wise and security-wise through statements, a series of arrests and releases, and clarifications from Tahrir al-Sham, its leader, and its supportive media.

Now, these attempts to contain and close the file are colliding with legitimate demands and calls from independent advocates of the HTS for the establishment of a judicial committee to oversee the “treason” file and investigate its secrets, re-opening the door to skepticism about what is happening, and warning of a looming and more serious danger.

Release and financial amounts

For two weeks and almost daily, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham released a number of its military leaders after detaining them for varying periods on charges of “communicating with external parties” and cooperating with the faction’s second-in-command and the currently detained Iraqi leader, Maysar bin Ali al-Qahtani, known as “Abu Maria al-Qahtani.”

Among those released by the HTS were “Abu Abdo al-Sahari,” “Abu Muslim Afes,” “Abu Zaid Bans,” “Walid Abu Zaid,” “Abu Khattab al-Haskawi,” “Abu Osama Monir,” “Khattab al-Dairi,” “Abu Taim Talhadya,” “Abu Ahmad Talhadya,” and “Abu al-Qa’qa Fawaz.”

Enab Baladi learned from military sources within the group that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s leadership granted amounts of money ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 US dollars to leaders who have been released from its prisons, varying according to the duration of the imprisonment and the nature of the leader’s position.

The sources do not have precise information on whether the HTS provided funds to all the detainees it released on the background of the “treason” investigation.

Mending relations

Most of the released showed signs of fatigue and torture, followed by an apology from al-Jolani and his commitment to holding everyone who had committed violations against the detainees to account. He visited some tents (majlis) that were set up to welcome the released detainees, as well as a visit by the HTS’ military wing official, “Abu al-Hassan al-Hamwi” to some of them.

The release operations were accompanied by heavy gunfire using various weapons, and in some cases, anti-aircraft fire, without any response from the HTS, even though this is prohibited in its controlled areas.

A researcher on jihadist groups, Orabi Orabi, told Enab Baladi that the visit of Abu Mohammad al-Jolani to some of the released was expected. It came to assure them that he is following their situation, that he will not hesitate to hold the aggressors accountable, and that mistakes do happen, for which those using their authority for vengeance or favoring one region over another will be held accountable.

Orabi believes that the visit has a social and leadership dimension, and it is an attempt to mend the relationship with these individuals and to calm them so they do not take escalatory steps against the HTS, which, according to the researcher, has borne fruit, since the released have so far not taken any action. Perhaps there is a veiled threat to them from some party, and there is reassurance from al-Jolani that he is monitoring the file, according to the researcher.

Al-Jolani: What happened is a crime

On February 1, Amjad Media Foundation published details of a meeting of al-Jolani with members of the Shura Council and the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), the political umbrella for the HTS. He spoke about the “treason” file, saying it is not the first ordeal of its kind, but despite its severity and pains, it will pass.

Al-Jolani considered that what happened during the investigation is a “crime against these brothers” and that necessary measures must be taken to restore their rights. He mentioned that the HTS had stopped some of the individuals responsible for these violations.

He added that there were some wrong procedures in the investigation, and that led the accused to provide plentiful but false information. He regarded the issue of treason as having “many divine messages” for everyone living in the north. It is a warning to the authority and security services, which requires deep reflection and learning lessons from it.

Enab Baladi confirmed that detainees in Tahrir al-Sham prisons were tortured, as video recordings showed difficulty in movement for the released commander “Abu Abdo al-Sahari” and the commander “Abu Muslim Afes,” who appeared unable to stand properly during al-Jolani’s separate visit to them.

Struggle of currents

At the beginning of the treason investigation after June 2023, a struggle emerged between currents within the HTS faction; one of them was the Binnish bloc opposing the second faction the al-Sharqiya (eastern) wing, which is close to Abu Maria al-Qahtani. The HTS formed an investigation committee led by “Abu Obeida Mnazmat,” who is one of the detractors of al-Qahtani, according to leaders and defectors from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Researcher Orabi believes that there are conflicts within Tahrir al-Sham, the most prominent of which is between the Binnish bloc (a prominent faction within the HTS) which pressures other blocs and uses the “treason” file as a pretext to dismantle other power centers in order for it to become the predominant force controlling the decision-making within the HTS.

Orabi added that this has backfired on the Binnish bloc, because it led to the defection of a major symbol, the faction’s third leader, Jihad Issa al-Sheikh (Abu Ahmed Zakkour), and threats by some other parties to resign after the “treason” pathway reached them.

The researcher explained that the leaders whom the HTS arrested, while they are from the second, third, and fourth ranks, are backed by a large bloc of elements, advocates, and a supportive environment linked to them, who are now exerting wide-reaching pressure on al-Jolani. Therefore, in the end, he had to acquiesce to the idea of releasing them and confirming that many confessions were taken under torture.

 

The “treason” file has not been closed permanently, but Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has closed it now media-wise, in front of the people and in front of the individuals it arrested, so as not to reach a level where the faction disintegrates.

Orabi Orabi, Researcher in jihadist groups

 

The researcher pointed out that the scale of the breach that led to the detention of more than 500 people may indicate that there may not be significant treason, and perhaps it is within a narrow scope between leaders who exchange information, and its spread and transmission led to all these arrests.

Religious scholars demand judicial committee

After a series of releases, 11 religious scholars and advocates called for the judgment in the issue of “treason” to be through a judicial committee headed by Dr. Ibrahim Shasho, considering the case of “infiltration and treason” to be the gravest incident that has affected the Syrian revolution.

In a joint statement, they called for Ibrahim Shasho to head the committee because he is trustworthy and accepted by all parties. He is one of the senior judges in the northern region, trusted by the general public, and this committee should have full powers without any review, guidance, or pressure. Its ruling would be definitive and not subject to appeal under any circumstances, and it should be implemented immediately once issued. Whatever the committee rules must be trusted and accepted by all, whether it rules for conviction or acquittal, according to the statement.

Researcher Orabi told Enab Baladi that the statement of the religious scholars has two aspects. The first is that these scholars remind us of the ideological background of the HTS and that it must continue to derive its legitimacy from this background upon which it was established. It should not sacrifice a project for the sake of “individuals,” so there must be recourse to the fundamental reference so as not to dissolve Tahrir al-Sham, according to their perception.

The second aspect of the statement is that it presents a lifeline for al-Jolani and for many leaders, because the topic will take months, perhaps years, to resolve. Agreeing on the formation of a committee and following up on the case is something the scholars know will take a long time, by which time no one will know what new circumstances may arise. Subsequently, the subject will either be forgotten or resolved in some way, according to Orabi.

 

The religious scholars’ call to establish a committee to investigate the issue of treason within the ranks of Tahrir al-Sham is an initiative to bridge the rift, and to stop the hemorrhage of arrests and factional fragmentation that the HTS appears to suffer from openly.

Orabi Orabi, Researcher in jihadist groups

 

Orabi indicated that al-Jolani has not yet seized the lifeline but will work on this proposal. At the very least, promoting and spreading it on social media is in the HTS’ interest.

The researcher excludes the possibility of a clash or friction between the HTS and religious scholars, since a religious figure, whether inside the HTS or outside it, is not military powerful (there is no longer a bloc of ‘Muhajirin’ who swear by his word), nor is he ideologically confrontational (he does not have widespread popularity in the northern circles).

Talks of al-Qahtani’s imminent release

The religious figure resigned from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Yahya al-Farghali (Abu al-Fath), criticized the handling of the case and doubted the procedures, calling for the trial of the detained leader “Abu Maria al-Qahtani,” especially after talks about the possibility of his release.

Al-Farghali (an Egyptian religious scholar residing in northern Syria) said, “I testify to God and the people that this man (al-Qahtani) is, without doubt, an agent for the enemies of religion, the coalition, or the Americans,” adding that he has plenty of documented evidence that leaves no one in doubt, and demanded that if al-Qahtani is released, he would present the evidence to the judiciary.

Al-Farghali described al-Qahtani as “one of the nastiest and filthiest agents who infiltrated the Muslims in recent years.”

Researcher at CORE Global and Syria affairs specialist Orwa Ajjoub said that sources within Tahrir al-Sham sent Abu Maria al-Qahtani to the hospital for treatment before his possible release, as the group found no evidence that condemns him.

It is likely, according to Ajjoub, that the reason behind this is the power struggles between different factions within the internal circles of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, as many of his partners who were recently arrested have been released, and a new crackdown against the emerging bloc has already begun.

Enab Baladi contacted the media office of Tahrir al-Sham to find out the truth about transferring al-Qahtani to a hospital, or the proximity of his release (detained in Tahrir al-Sham’s prison because of his communications with internal and external parties since August 2023), but received no response until the moment this report was published.

 

النسخة العربية من المقال

Related Articles

  1. Protests against Tahrir al-Sham continue in Idlib
  2. Protesters in northern Syria: The people want the downfall of al-Jolani
  3. HTS’ second man “Abu Maria al-Qahtani” killed by explosive device in Idlib
  4. Al-Jolani's promises do not quell protests in Idlib, What are his options?

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support