ANKARA, Turkey — Sixteen people went on trial in Istanbul on Tuesday, charged with “political and military” espionage on behalf of Israel, Turkish media reports said.
The defendants, including Palestinians and Syrians, were arrested in October in an operation by Turkey’s national intelligence agency, MIT, according to the pro-government Sabah newspaper and other Turkish media. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The suspects allegedly spied on Palestinian and Turkish students and other people on behalf of Israel, operating in five separate groups, Sabah newspaper reported. Some of the suspects allegedly met with Israeli officials in Switzerland, Croatia, Romania and Kenya.
Turkish intelligence officers reportedly monitored the group for a year before they were arrested.
Turkish officials have not commented on the arrests.
Sabah said the initial hearings in the trial would last four days.
Following the arrests in October, the former deputy chief of the Mossad denied those arrested were Israeli spies. Turkish media later published photos of the alleged agents.
The reports of the trial came amid signs of warming ties between Israel and Turkey after years of strained relations, and days after the presidents of the two countries spoke about a possible meeting.