January 1, 2013

Conspiracy to link Fethullah Gulen to OdaTV probe

Only a few days following his release from prison pending trial, journalist Soner Yalçın, the owner of the ultranationalist OdaTV news portal, has launched a propaganda campaign to allege that the faith-based Gülen movement is the driving force behind some ongoing trials in Turkey that aim to cleanse the country of anti-democratic formations.

In interviews given to some newspapers, Yalçın has claimed that the trials, which all contribute to Turkish democracy, are a conspiracy instigated by the Hizmet movement, inspired by internationally renowned Turkish and Islamic intellectual Fethullah Gülen.

The journalist told the Hürriyet Daily News, which he spoke to on Monday, that he was a victim of the same conspiracy that had bugged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's office. “The cemaat [as the Hizmet movement is referred to by some circles in Turkey] could be the new deep state in Turkey, but no one else,” the daily quoted Yalçın as saying. “The plotters [behind the OdaTV case] are the same people behind the release of sex tapes of former Republican People's Party [CHP] leader Deniz Baykal and many executives of the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP],” Yalçın told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen
The Hizmet movement is a group of volunteers engaged in interfaith and intercultural dialogue inspired by the ideas of Fethullah Gülen, whose teachings promote mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. Now residing in the US, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries, along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world.

Yalçın was arrested in February 2011 as part of an ongoing investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of working to overthrow the government. Apart from Yalçın, there are 12 other defendants in the OdaTV case who face charges of establishing an armed terrorist organization, the management of and membership in this organization, inciting hatred and animosity among the public, obtaining documents involving state security, attempting to influence the media in favor of those preparing to stage a coup and laying the groundwork for a coup.

Yalçın spoke to reporters following his release
 from prison pending trial last week. (Photo:Cihan)
The İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court last week ruled to release Yalçın pending trial, based on a law inserted in the third judicial reform package, adopted by Parliament in mid-2012. The court, however, imposed an international travel ban on the journalist.

During the two-year-long proceedings, Yalçın argued that the documents seized from OdaTV computers -- which detail plans by the news portal to incite chaos through provocation and to play down ongoing probes into coup plots, as well as to put pressure on court hearings of these matters -- had been planted from the outside with the help of a computer virus.

However, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) examined the computers and documents and concluded in a report it drafted in November that the documents had been transferred to the portal's computers from an external device, either a USB flash drive, CD or DVD, and not by a computer virus attached to an e-mail as previously claimed by OdaTV staff.

Yalçın spoke to the Yurt daily on Saturday and claimed that he was imprisoned because he was writing and telling the truth. “The truth is dangerous in Turkey. Those who write and tell the truth are always oppressed here. The OdaTV case is not the first case against journalists in our 170-year-old history of journalism. And it will probably not be the last one. Soner Yalçın exists with what he has written. I have 12 published books and thousands of news reports and articles. It is not the political power or religious groups to decide if a man is a journalist or not. It is the readers. And journalists are not obliged to make themselves look pretty and adorable to the political power or religious groups,” he said.

Indeed, this is not the first time Yalçın conspired against certain groups and individuals in Turkey. In one recent example, İklim Kaleli Bayraktar, a former OdaTV reporter, told a prosecutor involved in the investigation against the Ergenekon criminal network that former CHP leader Deniz Baykal had harassed her during an interview. However, the prosecutor later discovered that Yalçın planned to blackmail Baykal using Bayraktar to bring the then-CHP leader on board for the sale of Halk TV, known for its close ties to the CHP.

In a following interview with the Aksiyon weekly news magazine toward the end of 2011, Bayraktar claimed that she has been “stabbed in the back” by OdaTV. “If I had known that it was such a place [with shady connections], I would not have worked there for even one month,” she said, and added that she had no information about the sale of Halk TV. “All that happened to her was because of Yalçın and OdaTV,” Bayraktar added.

Yalçın kept tabs on journalists, celebrities

Documents seized during police search of the OdaTV office in 2011 also showed that the portal's owner Yalçın had been keeping tabs on a number of journalists and celebrities in Turkey.

The tabs mainly included detailed information about the private lives of those people. Sabah daily columnist Nazlı Ilıcak, who is known for her anti-coup stance and support for the ongoing Ergenekon probe, is among the journalists on whom the news portal kept a close eye.

Prosecutors found that Yalçın had written down notes about private information about Ilıcak and her family.

Another Sabah daily columnist, Sevilay Yükselir, was also among the journalists about whom Yalçın kept detailed information. Other journalists and prominent figures whom Yalçın allegedly kept tabs on were Eşfak Aykaç, Mustafa Denizli, Alp Yalman, Kemal Ilıcak, Yavuz Donat, Uluç Gürkan, Zafer Mutlu, Mesut Yılmaz, Yeniay Köseoğlu, Ayten Gürger, Nafiz Kurt, Sönmez Köksal, Güner Özmen, Ertuğrul Otan, Halil Tuğ, Mehmet Ağar, Hüseyin Özalp, Hasan Kocadağ, Kerem Durmuş, Orhan Uzeller, Cemil Erhan and Ahmet Hatipoğlu.

In March of last year, Ilıcak filed a criminal complaint against the news portal, saying slander about her was included in the documents kept by Yalçın.OdaTV, a staunch critic of the trial against Ergenekon, is also believed to be engaged in efforts to discredit the trial in the eyes of the people.

Documents seized during police search of the OdaTV office have shown that the news portal cooperated with a large number of military officers and civilians, mainly those working for various media outlets, to water down the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine gang charged with plotting to overthrow the government.

One such document, prepared by lawyer Şule Erol, starts with the address “Venerable Commander” and is believed to be written for a high-ranking military officer. This document lists methods to obscure evidence being used by prosecutors against the suspects in the Ergenekon trial, as well as in the Sledgehammer trial, where a number of military officers were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

This document also includes a heading which lists “Responsibilities of the Media,” to aid with the plan to water down the events.

The document is divided into three parts: “obscuring,” “denying” and “watering down.” It includes notes as to what should be done to obscure evidence ahead of searches by civilian prosecutors, as to how the evidence found during the searches can be denied, and how the evidence that could not be obscured or effectively refuted should be watered down later on.

Erol was the lawyer acting on behalf of a number of admirals arrested in the Sledgehammer trial including Ramazan Cem Gürdeniz, Şafak Durer, Utku Arslan, Mustafa Karasabun, Soner Polat and Taner Gül.

In a phone conversation in February 2010, wiretapped legally by the police, Yalçın sought to obtain personal information about prosecutors involved in the Ergenekon investigation. “The prosecutors are very young, aren't they? How did they manage to lead such an important investigation at such an early age?” Yalçın asked one of his colleagues on the phone. The journalist later asked his colleague to help him find out where the prosecutors were born.

Yalçın became the center of harsh criticism with his books “Efendi” (Master) and “Efendi 2,” which claim that all of Turkey's significant figures are in fact Jewish. The books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Critics said these publications created a mental climate in which being a Jew or having a Jewish background is something to be ashamed of, and enough to be anti-Turkish, a mindset which prompts hatred. In Efendi, Yalçın claimed that famous fashion designer Cemil İpekçi came from a “dönme” family, referring to a group of crypto-Jews in the Ottoman Empire and present-day Turkey. İpekçi denied Yalçın's claims and said he will write about his family's roots with supporting documents soon.

Neo-nationalist journal Aydınlık claimed in 2007 that Efendi was indeed written by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and then given to Yalçın to claim that it was his own product. According to Aydınlık, MİT proposed four journalists to claim authorship of the book, and among them, Yalçın agreed. Aydınlık also said Yalçın did not avoid slandering his friends or colleagues when trying to obtain information for a news piece he was working on. “And when he is criticized, he says he is a journalist and that he can do anything to be successful in his profession,” Aydınlık wrote on Feb. 25, 2007.

Published on Today's Zaman, 31 December 2012, Monday