July 7, 2014

Minister silent over anti-Hizmet plot despite parliamentary question

Despite parliamentary bylaws requiring responses to questions within 15 days, Interior Minister Efkan Ala is yet to respond to a parliamentary question from his predecessor, İdris Naim Şahin, asking if there is a secret plot against the faith-based Hizmet movement and if the ruling party has mobilized its resources to fabricate evidence and initiate an operation against the movement.

The alleged anti-Hizmet plot, called the “Action Plan,” was brought to the fore of political debate when Şahin submitted a question to Parliament on June 20. Şahin said he had received a large number of documents pertaining to an alleged plan after he stepped down as interior minister.

The documents suggest, Şahin said, that the Interior Ministry had recently ordered intelligence officers to gather evidence and launch a police operation against the group. According to Şahin's question, the plan recommends an investigation into whether Hizmet members are armed and if its members have the capacity to stage a coup against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Meanwhile, representatives from opposition parties are complaining that the AK Party government is preventing opposition parties from taking an active role in policy-making by rejecting or turning a blind eye to many of their parliamentary questions and inquiries.

The 23-article anti-Hizmet plot includes accusations that the movement organized the killing of eminent figures in society and declares it an armed terrorist group.

In the wake of the corruption scandal, which implicated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his inner circle and led to the resignation of four ministers, the government systematically targeted the Hizmet movement and accused it of being “a deep state within the state” in an attempt to detract public attention from the graft probe.

The bylaw rules that all questions should be answered within 15 days. However, after the corruption scandal broke, many parliamentary questions were left unanswered or answered after the bylaw-defined period had expired.

According to the bylaw, the Parliament Speaker's Office sends a notice to the deputies and ministers asking them to respond to the questions. If they fail to answer these questions, the process result is noted in the official records.

Ala reacted strongly to journalists when asked about the government's alleged secret plot against members of the movement and accused Şahin of carrying out illegal wiretaps during his term in office.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Oktay Vural also criticized the plot, calling it "a scandalous move."

Vural said, “Apparently the operation aims to eliminate and terrorize civil society through unfair accusations.” He defined the initiative as a government-orchestrated scandal, one dependent on fabricated evidence.

Complaining about unanswered parliamentary questions, Vural said: "The MHP is exercising its duty and auditing the executive power in a way granted by the Constitution. For instance, I posed many questions to Minister Ala in 2013 regarding the management of a parking lot. Ala sent an answer which I felt was disrespectful to Parliament, saying, 'All procedures linked to the management of parking lots are conducted in line with certain law and regulations.' His answer is disrespectful to all the people who elected Ala and sent him to Parliament. Ala has no right to be disrespectful over these questions."

The “Action Plan” also recommends determining whether those who were subject to criminal investigations in the last 10 years would testify against the Hizmet movement and suggests that former members of the movement could be questioned and protected through the state's witness-protection program.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 06 July 2014, Sunday