June 26, 2014

Gülen's lawyer: Profiling order against Hizmet must be called off

Nurullah Albayrak, a lawyer of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, said Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun must halt an alleged secret plot devised by the government against members of the faith-based Hizmet movement (also known as Gülen movement).

According to Al Jazeera Turk, Coşkun sent an order to the Ankara Police Department and its Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau on June 11, 2014 to carry out a secret and unlawful investigation into the Hizmet movement. As part of the investigation, the prosecutor asked the police to find out what exactly is the “parallel structure” -- a reference to the Hizmet movement -- as well as to identify its members, objectives and human and financial resources.

Albayrak submitted a written petition to the prosecutor's office on Thursday, in which he recalled that there is no current investigation registered in the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) about neither his client Gülen nor the Hizmet movement, and went on to assess that conducting an investigation as such is in full conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Constitution and the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK).

Inspired by Gülen, Hizmet is a grassroots education and interfaith dialogue movement operating all over the world.

Former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, who is currently an independent deputy, raised a parliamentary question to be answered by Interior Minister Efkan Ala about a multifaceted government plan to “finish off Hizmet.” Şahin said he had received a large number of documents pertaining to the alleged plot showing that the government had mobilized all its resources to gather evidence to initiate an operation against the movement, which he said is completely illegal as it contradicts the principle of finding criminal activity from evidence, not the opposite. Şahin's question included if the action plan recommended that authorities investigate whether Hizmet members had weapons and if it would be possible for its members to stage a coup against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Albayrak recalled an omnibus law known as the 5th Judicial Reform Package to change the CMK so that respondents may be informed about any evidence collected against them, even while the investigation is still in progress. “Set aside getting the documents in the investigation, we were not even provided any information regarding any lawsuit [against Gülen and the Hizmet movement] despite our insistent applications; this is judicially unacceptable,” said the lawyer.

According to the presumption of innocence, everyone is deemed not guilty until proven so by the courts, said Albayrak. He also highlighted the principle of individual criminal responsibility, which states that no one can be held responsible from the crime of another person.

The lawyer's petition asserted that the investigation is being carried out without respecting legal obligations and under the influence of the words and actions of politicians.

Albayrak said the request asking to profile all Hizmet members is tantamount to presuming that anyone related to the movement is a potential criminal and that mobilizing all state institutions to take part in this witch hunt is an unmatched aberration from the fundamental principles of the law. He said the request was said to have begun after complaints, and asked what kind of a complaint might have triggered such massive profiling. Is it possible to use the same method for other cases if, for instance, a multitude of complaints is sent about other people and groups, asked Albayrak. “Will there be any legal action against the prime minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] since there have already been many complaints about him, too?” Albayrak asked.

Since a major graft operation became public on Dec. 17 of last year, Erdoğan has referred to Hizmet as a terrorist organization that, acting on the orders of foreign powers, is trying to stage a coup against him. He has even likened Hizmet volunteers to hashish-consuming assassins. He has not yet provided any evidence for his claims and accusations.

Without bothering to show even weak evidence, Erdoğan has accused Hizmet of orchestrating the graft probe. Having thoroughly changed the judicial structure by removing hundreds of prosecutors and judges and appointing them to trivial positions as a move to thwart the serious corruption cases, he vowed to respond with a counter-operation after the March 30 local elections. He reiterated his threat on Monday. Speaking to a group of reporters, the prime minister said: “We will file hundreds and even thousands of legal cases against them [Hizmet members]. Things will be very different then.” He also said his government is working on a “project” related to these cases, but did not elaborate.

Judiciary tousled, they may now do anything

Former AK Party deputy Reha Çamuroğlu, who still is a member of the party, has directed harsh criticisms against the government. The Islamist identity and Islam has been clearly disintegrated from each other in this period, asserts Çamuroğlu, adding that the “law mechanism has been smashed.” “What is it that you expect me to find odd given that the law has gone on vacation [effectively been suspended]? I personally think that any kind of operation would be possible now. We all can be either witnesses to or victims of them,” said Çamuroğlu.

‘Don't let our exhibition go to waste'

Şahin's parliamentary question regarding a government plot against Hizmet was asked to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç on Wednesday during the opening ceremony of an exhibition at Dolmabahçe Palace in İstanbul. Arınç evaded the question by asking reporters not to “include these names [indicating Şahin] now since this nice exhibition would go down the drain otherwise.”

The same question was forwarded to Numan Kurtulmuş, AK Party deputy chairman, during a visit to Bursa on Wednesday. He didn't reject the existence of such a plan but avoided the question by saying: “The place to answer that question is Parliament. I don't want to answer it now in any way. The assembly will take care of it and proper answers will be given by relevant ministries.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 June 2014, Thursday