It is no secret that under the direction of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan police officers who conducted graft operations against his close associates have been detained.
In the process of their detention the police officers were handcuffed, which is not a normal procedure for such cases, put under a great deal of psychological pressure, paraded before the media as if they were guilty, arrested in the middle of the night -- at 2 a.m. -- right before suhur, when people get up and eat as part of the Ramadan fast. This time is considered prime time for TV stations during the month of Ramadan. Then they are not released after the four-day legal detention period is over.
While the police, prosecutors, and the judge who was recently handpicked by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) were violating the arrested officers' rights, Erdoğan and his media outlets continued to fabricate new lies about them. Erdoğan's long-standing claim against the police officers was that they had committed treason. He also claimed that they are foreign spies dedicated to toppling his government on behalf of foreign powers, implying that the officers work for Israel and the US.
For a reasonable person there is no validity to his claims, but his conspiracy theories and lies work in Turkey because most people in this country believe conspiracy theories over the actual facts on the ground. People here complain about the West and foreign powers when they face challenges in their everyday lives. Thus, Erdoğan's strategy of linking these officers to the West and accusing them of spying was an effective one to deceive the people. In fact, he has convinced his followers of this.
Yet the prosecutors and the judge who were handpicked by Erdoğan's government did not ask a single question about spying or any other of Erdoğan's claims. The accusations that were addressed to the police officers were those of forging documents and wiretapping phone conversations. They were not even asked if they were members of the Gülen movement.
In Turkey's dirty political climate it may seem natural to hear ridiculous accusations coming out of Erdoğan's poisonous language. However, it was completely unexpected that the prosecutors and the judge would not raise questions concerning what Erdoğan had been accusing these officers of.
Perhaps those questions were not asked of the officers because there is not a single shred of evidence that could be put in the files of the officers. Yet the prosecutors and the judge need to fulfill the duty for which they were hand picked. Therefore, they are trying to find any wrongdoing that these officers might have committed as police officers.
Since the prosecutors and judge are determined to arrest these officers for the benefit of Erdoğan's political project, they are trying to do everything possible to show that these officers are guilty.
They commit human rights violations, cross the lines, break many laws and encourage other officers to commit crimes for two reasons: to provide an immediate political benefit to Erdoğan's presidential election campaign and to scare off the supporters of the Gülen movement.
Whether or not Erdoğan will reap the benefits he is hoping for is a different story. I think he will solidify his base of supporters by telling them he has kept his election promise by punishing the officers. I don't think the psychological torture and systematic humiliation of those officers, exposing them to the world as if they are guilty, will bring any more votes to Erdoğan. However, he needs to “do something” to be able to tell his supporters that he is “fighting a dangerous enemy” and needs their strong support.
However, I do not think he will be able to scare off the supporters of the Gülen movement. However, he may be able to affect those conservative people who think that supporting the Gülenists might harm their interests.
Published on Today's Zaman, 30 July 2014, Wednesday