July 24, 2014

'Arınç's demand that Hizmet repent admission of witch hunt'

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's words, saying that if police chiefs detained early Tuesday morning in a large-scale operation repent things can go back to normal, is considered an admission of a politically orchestrated witch hunt by the government.

Dozens of high-ranking members of the police force were detained on grounds of falsifying official documents, abuse of authority and illegal wiretapping. They were told to ask for forgiveness, which main opposition Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) deputy İhsan Özkes stresses proved the operation was politically motivated rather than based on criminal activity.

“Arınç's comments indicate that the massive operation against the police chiefs is arbitrary and part of a government-led witch hunt [that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously vowed to conduct against members of the Hizmet movement]. Arınç's words show that if these police chiefs repent and apologize to the government they will be released, proving that the operation aims at chastising the police,” Özkes said.

Regarding the treatment of the detained police chiefs, Arınç said: “People should be considered innocent until proven guilty. All who were detained are public officials and they should not be treated badly. They should not be handcuffed and should not be declared criminals. However, I know both sides [the government and the Hizmet movement] well. I am deeply saddened. The recent developments indicate that no probability of peace [between the two sides] is in sight."

In the wake of such emotional expressions, Arınç went on to say: “We cannot ignore what was done to the government [in reference to the graft scandal]. Some truths should be revealed. Some people who nested in some places should abandon such work. They [those detained] should express their remorse. No government or state would allow a ‘parallel state' to exist working against it.”

Lashing out at Arınç, CHP deputy Özkes pointed out that violating the rights of those who were detained in the holy days of Ramadan would not bring benefit to those who conduct such unlawful operations, and added, “The Prophet Muhammad suggests people should side with fairness even if it is against their interests. To consent to any kind of cruelty is also another type of cruelty. We have not witnessed such oppression by any state institution even during the periods of military coups.”

In an effort to “punish” the faith-based Hizmet movement, which government officials accuse of orchestrating the major corruption operation of Dec. 17, 2013, on July 22, dozens of high-ranking members of the police force were detained in a large-scale operation. The suspects are accused of falsifying official documents, abusing authority, illegal wiretapping and illegally obtaining documents related to state security and violating private communications. Those detained have pled innocent.

The government accuses the suspects of being members of the “parallel state,” a reference to the Hizmet movement, and working to overthrow the government.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office announced on Tuesday that arrest warrants were issued for 115 members of the police force. The warrants were issued by the İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of Peace, which began working less than a week ago.

One of those officers was former İstanbul Police Department Intelligence Bureau Chief Ali Fuat Yılmazer, who was taken into custody on Tuesday evening after a 12-hour police search of his home. Yılmazer showed his handcuffs to press members who photographed him outside the hospital where he had been taken for health screening. “Look at these [handcuffs]. Look at my medals of honor,” he said, adding that the detained officers were handcuffed even though Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, one of the prime suspects in the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption operation, was not handcuffed while under detention.

Zarrab is currently on vacation in Bodrum.

The operation came two days after the prime minister talked to the media about a plan to assign “super judges” to tackle a looming operation against Hizmet. Super judges, or penal judges of peace, refer to judges who have been granted a broad array of powers through a recently approved omnibus law introduced by the AK Party. These judges have been criticized for being endowed with too many powers over investigations and other courts' rulings.

The prime minister did not make it a secret that his government was planning a sweeping operation against the Hizmet movement after months of “evidence-gathering.” Many observers believe that the operations are a way for the government to discredit the recent corruption scandal.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 July 2014,