July 10, 2014

Experts call for legal action against unlawful anti-Hizmet plot

Protests against an unlawful order for a police probe targeting the faith-based Hizmet movement over fictitious and unsubstantiated accusations continue to snowball, with several legal experts calling for legal action against the officials behind the order.

Retired military judge Ümit Kardaş said that targeting innocent people based on groundless accusations and profiling them according to their links with civil society groups is a crime, which requires legal action. “Potential victims of the [said] order should file criminal complaints against the officials behind the order. Those who seek to disturb social peace through unlawful methods will be called to account sooner or later,” the judge told Today's Zaman.

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.

The order was sent on June 25 by the National Police Department's Counter-terrorism Unit (TEM) to police departments in 30 provinces, asking police to carry out a comprehensive and secret probe to see if the Hizmet movement is an armed group.

The TEM order also instructed officials at police departments in the 30 provinces to contribute to an ongoing investigation launched against the Hizmet movement by the Anti-constitutional Crimes Investigation Bureau at the Chief Prosecutor's Office in Ankara.

According to Kardaş, the officials behind the unlawful order -- whether it came from the prime minister, ministers or bureaucrats -- have committed a crime and must stand trial for what they have done. “When an investigation is under way, members of the judiciary and the police force must abide by the law. They cannot resort to unlawful or anti-democratic methods, regardless of the reason. Whoever does anything to the contrary commits a crime,” he told Today's Zaman, adding that the order in question contains many unlawful elements.

The order 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, an attack on the Council of State in 2006 (in which a senior judge was killed), the murder of three Christian missionaries at a publishing house in Malatya in 2007 and the killing of Jewish businessman Üzeyir Garih, who was found murdered in a Muslim cemetery in İstanbul in 2001.

In connection with those criminal acts, TEM head Turgut Aslan asked police to search properties belonging to members of the Hizmet movement to see if they possess any documents related to the assassinations. If the police discover any such records, Aslan noted in his order, the documents should immediately be sent to the National Police Department.

The president of the Law and Life Association, lawyer Mehmet Kasap, said the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) should immediately launch an investigation into the anti-Hizmet order. According to Kasap, the order is the result of the “paranoia” the government has been suffering from since Dec. 17, 2013, when a major corruption and bribery investigation came to public attention. “They [government] have been carrying out a propaganda campaign against innocent people [affiliated with Hizmet] but have been unable to uncover any evidence to suggest that those people are involved in crime. With this order, it is evident that they are working to fabricate evidence [against Hizmet members],” the lawyer noted when talking to Today's Zaman.

Since a major graft operation became public on Dec. 17 of last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the AK Party leader, has continuously 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.

The prime minister has also complained that the graft investigation was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement and vowed to respond with a counter-operation after the March 30 municipal elections.
Order spells undeclared state of emergency

For lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who is also a human rights activist, the anti-Hizmet order reveals an undeclared state of emergency for Turkey. “They [government] first find potential criminals and then order the judiciary and police to discover or invent evidence to prove those criminals' involvement in a crime. This tendency runs contrary to principles of criminal procedure,” he told Today's Zaman.

According those principles, Cengiz said, the judiciary or police should first discover evidence of a crime and then find the potential criminals. The lawyer likened the government's fight against Hizmet to a witch hunt.

Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) President Ahmet Faruk Ünsal said that no claim had been raised before Dec. 17, 2013 about Hizmet's possible link with a number of infamous murders, which include the murders of Dink and the three Christian missionaries in Malatya. “It is thought-provoking that a claim over a possible link between Hizmet and the murders was raised after the graft operation,” he said, and added that TEM head Aslan should reveal to the public the suspicions based on which he asked the police to investigate Hizmet's links with the murders.

Turkey's opposition parties have also criticized the government's illegal orders, with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Aytun Çıray saying that Erdoğan has become one of the leading prosecutors and judges in the country and that he constantly interferes in the judiciary.

“If there is a 'parallel state' in Turkey, the prime minister's AKP is the real 'parallel state',” he said, noting that the CHP will carefully monitor the government's orders for possible illegality and profiling activities on unsuspecting citizens.

The CHP spokesperson also accused Erdoğan of trying to divide and polarize Turkish society, adding to that Turkey is fast moving away from democracy due to these kinds of illegal activities.

Published on Cihan, 10 July 2014, Thursday