July 16, 2014

İhsanoğlu describes witch hunt against public servants as cruelty

Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the presidential candidate jointly nominated by the two major opposition parties, has described an ongoing witch hunt pursued by the government against public servants believed to be affiliated with the faith-based Hizmet movement as “cruelty.”

According to İhsanoğlu, if there is suspicion that a public servant is involved in a crime, then he must be punished as envisaged in laws and regulations, but reassigning thousands of public servants en masse on the grounds that they may be members of a religious or civil society group is unfair. “No investigation has been opened against those [reassigned] public servants. There is no crime attributed to them, and there is no court decision to confirm suspicions that they are criminals. Is it fair what happened to thousands of members of the police force and the judiciary? This is cruelty,” İhsanoğlu stated on Tuesday evening on a TV program hosted by Samanyolu Haber.

The Hizmet movement promotes interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems through peaceful means throughout the world. However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has recently been engaged in a bitter struggle against the movement. This conflict intensified after Dec. 17, 2013, when a major government graft operation became public. The prime minister claims the operation was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement, who intended to overthrow his government. However, he has not provided any evidence to prove his claim. The movement denies the accusation.

Since Dec. 17 more than 20,000 police officers, bureaucrats, judges and prosecutors have been reassigned for no official reason other than their suspected links to the Hizmet movement.

In a public address in May, the prime minister effectively confessed that he was carrying out a witch hunt. Commenting on the reassignments, the prime minister -- without providing the slightest shred of evidence -- accused the reassigned officers of “betraying Turkey” because of their suspected alliances with the Hizmet movement, which he currently views as “… enemy number one. If reassigning individuals who betray this country is called a witch hunt, then, yes, we will carry out a witch hunt,” Erdoğan said.

Asked about the government's ongoing efforts to shut down Turkish schools abroad, which are run by volunteers of the Hizmet movement, İhsanoğlu said those schools are a source of pride for Turkey. “It makes us proud to see that our flag waves, our national anthem is sung and Turkish is taught in a large number of countries thanks to those schools. Students at those schools are very well trained. They grow up to become friends of Turkey. This is a major investment in the future of Turkey,” he stated, adding that a smear campaign was also launched against Turkish schools in the run-up to the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup but nothing that ran contrary to Turkey's interests about those schools was discovered then. “So, what has changed now?” İhsanoğlu asked.

İhsanoğlu also lashed out at an omnibus bill that is currently being debated in Parliament which blocks the right of public servants to seek legal redress for reappointment as well as promotion and a legal structure for the reappointment of public servants who were removed from office and reassigned to other posts after the major graft probe of Dec. 17, 2013. “This is catastrophic,” he said. “If you deprive public servants of their right to seek legal remedies, it is disastrous.”

The presidential candidate, in addition, commented on Interior Minister Efkan Ala, who apparently insulted the Prophet Muhammad by attributing pride to him when he conquered Mecca. He said he was ashamed of the minister's remarks.

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 July 2014, Wednesday