PHOTO: UN inspectors collect samples after Assad regime’s August 2013 sarin attacks near Damascus

A Turkish court on Tuesday issued rulings on Tuesday in a 2 1/2-year case linked to claims over the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s conflict.

The court sentenced in absentia a Syrian national, Haytham Qassab, to 12 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” and “attempting to obtain weapons for an armed terrorist organization”. Qassab was accused of attempting to obtain chemicals that could used in the production of sarin nerve agent.

Five Turkish suspects were acquitted. The court ruled that their attempts to acquire chemicals were in the preparatory stages and had not been completed.

Defenders of Syria’s Assad regime have used the case to cast doubt on the Syrian military’s use of sarin in August 2013, killing more than 1,400 people near Damascus. Those claims were countered by the response that, at most, the suspects had “precursors” which can be used for sarin production.

The court’s ruling supports the conclusion that Qassab had only attempted to obtain the precursors and that no “precursors” had been obtained, let alone that any sarin had been produced.

The suspects were initially detained in Adana in southern Turkey in May 2013. Two months later, the suspects were released pending trial but, when the court later established that the materials might be precursors for sarin, a warrant for Qassab’s arrest was issued.

The indictment said that Qassab, claimed to have links with Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Turkish defendants were seeking thionyl chloride [SOC12], potassium fluoride [KF], methanol [CH3OH], isopropanol [C3H8O], isopropanolamine [C3H9NO], white phosphorus [P4], medical glucose, and buoxite. They were also accused of trying to procure fuses and chrome piping to build mortar tubes.

Earlier this month, an MP from the opposition Republican People’s Party, Eren Erdem, told Russian State broadcaster RT that radical groups in Syria had obtained sarin gas from Turkey.

The prosecutor of the case denied Erdem’s accusations, repeated that the Turkish suspects were released because they were not found to be in possession of precursors.