July 10, 2014

Critics compare anti-Hizmet plot to Feb. 28 period

Politicians and legal experts have continued to raise their voices against an unlawful order for a police probe targeting the faith-based Hizmet movement over unsubstantiated accusations, with some comparing the directive with the practices of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup period.

Felicity Party (SP) Chairman Mustafa Kamalak said the order is “dirtier” than a number of practices of the Feb. 28 period.

“Even if we interpret what has been going on [in Turkey] recently as if we were going through a coup period, I can state that the current developments are dirtier than what happened during coup times in the past,” he stated on Wednesday in an interview with the Bugün TV station.

The Feb. 28 coup refers to what is popularly known as a postmodern coup in the country when the Turkish military forced a coalition government, led by the conservative Welfare Party (RP), to resign on the grounds that there was religious fundamentalism in the country. Hundreds of thousands of people were profiled during the days of the coup according to their religious and ideological backgrounds.

The order in question accuses the movement of working to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and possessing arms intended to be used to this end, among other fictitious claims.

Kamalak described the order as “unlawful,” which he said is aimed at fabricating false evidence against innocent people whom the government wishes to stand trial on fictitious accusations and for various reasons. “I have difficulty in understanding. In a country governed by the rule of law, evidence takes you to the suspect. Prosecutors and police chase up clues and evidence to find the suspect. But this is not what's happening in Turkey. They [government] first declare individuals as suspects, and then they work to make up evidence to accuse those individuals. This is unacceptable in terms of the law,” he stated.

The SP chairman was, again, referring to the said order, which asked police departments to carry out a probe to see if the Hizmet movement had any role in certain assassinations that have shaken Turkey in recent years, including the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, the murder of Catholic priest Father Andrea Santoro in 2006 and an attack on the Council of State in 2006, in which a senior judge was killed.

Ufuk Uras, former chairman of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), said the anti-Hizmet order is a clear indication that the AK Party government wishes to carry out a “witch hunt” against the Hizmet movement and cautioned, “Be sure that when Turkey is transformed into a democratic state, then none of these anti-democratic practices will go unpunished.”

According to Adana Bar Association head Mengücek Gazi Çıtırık, targeting innocent people over groundless accusations is not right and would damage people's trust in the rule of law. Çıtırık said fabricating false evidence to accuse people is a crime under Turkish laws.

In the meantime, information obtained by Today's Zaman from police sources suggests that the anti-Hizmet plot is largely based on false reports that have appeared in the pro-government newspapers recently. According to the sources, Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun depended on a number of such reports that accused the Hizmet movement of seeking to overthrow the AK Party government by embedding its members in some state institutions, when ordering a covert but extensive probe into the movement. Coşkun's order for a probe was forwarded to the National Police Department Counterterrorism Unit (TEM). TEM head Turgut Aslan, in response, forwarded the prosecutor's order to the police departments of 30 provinces, asking the officials at those departments to contribute to the probe.

Among the news reports that have served as a basis for Aslan's order is the one titled “Community's [in reference to Hizmet movement] imam in the police force,” which was published by the Sabah daily in late December of last year. According to the report, which is not based on any document or evidence, a higher member of the Hizmet movement is leading a huge number of police officers, who are functioning for the benefit of the movement.

Another such report, titled “Service Charge,” was published by the Takvim daily in mid-April. According to the claim, all Hizmet members are forced by the movement to make monthly donations to Hizmet. The daily did not provide any evidence for its claim.

Published on Today's Zaman, 10 July 2014, Thursday