July 23, 2014

Anti-police operation is gov't attempt to take revenge for graft probe

Various segments of society have continued to speak out against a government-backed operation that has resulted in the detention of over 100 members of the police force.

Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, said the operation is a government attempt to take revenge on elements of the police force that exposed alleged corruption on Dec. 17 of last year.

“Mass detentions of people are not among the things we [the CHP] can approve of. Everyone must respect the rule of law. Such operations [in which many people are detained] are staged to take revenge on a certain segment of society. We do not approve of the police being punished for exposing the government's corrupt practices,” he stated.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has recently been engaged in a bitter fight with the Hizmet movement. This conflict intensified after Dec. 17, 2013, when a major graft operation targeting government ministers and connected businessmen became public. The prime minister claims the operation was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement in an effort to overthrow his government. However, he has not provided any evidence to prove this claim, and the movement denies the accusation.

Calling a press conference in Parliament on Wednesday, CHP party spokesman and Deputy Chairman Haluk Koç accused the government of creating a “special judiciary” to cover up its illegal practices, adding that the establishment of penal judges of peace is part of this attempt. “Around the world, the police chase thieves. But things are different in Turkey: The thieves are chasing the police,” he noted. He said penal judges of peace have been assigned by the government to arrest critics of the AK Party government. “What will these judges do? They will detain, arrest or freeze the assets of whoever the government points to [as its critics].”

Koç claimed that the judges appointed to the penal courts of peace are all controversial figures, most of whom ruled in favor of the corruption suspects in the Dec. 17 graft probe. He also said the political figures who are behind today's unlawful operation against the Hizmet movement and police officers will be called to account sooner or later. “Never forget that those [politicians] who are screaming today that they will enter the caves [of Hizmet movement members] will see others going into their caves tomorrow,” he added.

Retired Prosecutor Mete Göktürk told a TV channel on Wednesday that the operation against the police was an attempt to distract from the claims of government corruption and bribe-taking. “They [the government] are working to cover up the unlawful practices they have been involved in. They aim to cover up the claims of corruption. They are looking for someone to lay the blame on,” he stated.

Felicity Party (SP) leader Mustafa Kamalak said the operation against the police lacks a legal basis, as the judicial bodies were first directed by the government to determine the possible suspects and then create evidence to prove their crimes. “If the state deviates from justice, it becomes the strongest gang in the world,” he noted.

According to Göktürk, the government's claims of a "parallel structure," referring to the faith-based Hizmet movement, which the government accuses of working to overthrow the state, is merely an attempt to create “paranoia” among the people. “The 'parallel structure' is an invention. A similar concept was invented before the 1980 coup d'état. Many people were arrested due to the fear that they were communists. Yet another similar concept was introduced before the Feb. 28, 1997 coup. Many people were accused of reactionaryism then,” he noted.

Gaziantep Bar Association head Ali Elibol described the operation as unlawful and part of a witch hunt the government has been staging against a civil society group -- the Hizmet movement. “A plot has been hatched against the police. The prime minister said they [the government] were working on a project [to launch an operation]. The project is currently under way,” he stated.

According to Elibol, it is thought-provoking that the operation is being coordinated by the İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of Peace, which began seeing cases less than one week ago. “I am calling on the judges at that court. I ask them not to resort to any unlawful practices,” he said, adding that otherwise the judges will be held accountable.

Prime Minister Erdoğan had said earlier this week that a legal operation against the Hizmet movement would be handled by penal judges of peace. These judges, also referred to as super judges, have been granted many powers through a recently approved omnibus law introduced by the AK Party. These judges have been criticized for their broad powers over investigations and the rulings of other courts.

An arrest warrant for 115 police officers, as part of the anti-Hizmet operation, was issued by the İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of Peace. The head of the court, Hulusi Pur, came to prominence in mid-February when he decided to release six leading suspects in the corruption operation, which became public in December of last year, when dozens of bureaucrats, businessmen and the sons of three then-Cabinet ministers were taken into custody on accusations of fraud and bribery.

Many of the police officers detained earlier this week were involved in the corruption operation. According to critics, the detentions are part of a government plan to contain the embarrassing graft scandal.

The Law and Life Association criticized the anti-police operation in a statement. According to the association, it is a crime to raid a venue before dawn. The residences of the detained police officers were raided at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) proscribe police to conduct raids from dusk until dawn.

The association added that the operation lacked legal grounds, as it had been leaked to some members of the press beforehand.

Some news sources claimed on Tuesday that journalists working for pro-government media were told by prosecutors and police officials on Monday that an operation would be staged against the Hizmet movement early on Tuesday. The journalists were asked to arrive at their offices early in the day to cover the operation.

In addition, Internet news site Rota Haber claimed over the weekend that judges and prosecutors involved in the anti-Hizmet investigation had invited a group of journalists working for the pro-government media to their offices, briefing those journalists on the details of the planned operation.

Former İzmir Mayor Burhan Özfatura described the operation as a “government attempt to take revenge” on the Hizmet movement. “Things are evolving into a nightmare. They [the government] are staging an operation to change the agenda and intimidate people. They believe that people will obey them if they manage to intimidate people,” he stated.

Families speak out against unlawful operation

The family members of police officers detained in Tuesday's operation have continued to express their criticisms.

The mother-in-law of Ahmet Öztürk, the former head of the İstanbul Police Department's cybercrime unit, said the operation was politically motivated and that the detainees would be proven innocent soon. “He is a very honest man. He loves working. He was very sorry for his colleagues who were reassigned after Dec. 17. I think his detention is revenge for the corruption operation,” said the woman, Semia Dikmen.

The wife of Fatih Keleş, who was also detained on Tuesday, told the media that she has full faith in her husband's innocence. “I am sure that my husband and the other [detained] police officers have done nothing wrong. They did not take a haram bite [i.e., ill-gained earnings]. Had they done, they would not be under detention today. They would be walking outside, just like the sons of the [former] ministers and [Iranian businessman] Reza Zarrab [who was detained on Dec. 17 on corruption charges],” she stated.

Keleş's wife also said she believes the detainees will be set free soon.

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 July 2014, Wednesday