July 1, 2014

Officer targeted by gov't witch-hunt commits suicide

A witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in response to corruption allegations targeting Prime Ministers Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inner circle has cost the life of one police officer, according to his family.

Since the corruption scandal went public on Dec. 17, Turkish authorities have continuously been purging police chiefs and officers in an effort to evade legal proceedings against Prime Minister Erdoğan's close associates, a number of government ministers and their sons and others implicated in the scandal. Thousands of police officers have been appointed to less influential positions and some others have been expelled.

Erdoğan has accused the police officers who took part in the operations exposing government corruption of being part of a “parallel structure” nested within the state that is trying to overthrow his government -- although he has not been able to produce any evidence to justify this accusation. Many have called Erdoğan's purges -- which have also been taking place within the judiciary -- a witch-hunt.

The latest victim of this witch-hunt is Erol Çakıcı (38), who reportedly committed suicide after being accused of being a member of the parallel structure. Çakıcı's death follows that of Niyazi Paçacı (26), who committed suicide earlier for the same reason. Çakıcı's family says he started showing symptoms of depression and believe that the reason for his suicide is because he was being continually harassed by some colleagues at the Çankırı Police Department, where he was employed. He was shortly transferred to the Ilgaz district of Çankırı as part of the purges. He committed suicide while in his car along the Çankırı-Ankara highway on Friday. He is survived by a wife and two daughters.

Thousands of policemen and hundreds of prosecutors have been arbitrarily demoted and reassigned to other provinces and positions without any official charges or probes launched against them. Among the reassigned prosecutors are those overseeing the Dec. 17 graft case. In addition to the judiciary and police departments, other state institutions have lately been the subject of mass reassignments by the government.

The re-appointments that have come in response to the graft allegations were carried out under orders from Interior Minister Efkan Ala and National Police Chief Mehmet Kılıçlar. The Interior Ministry has not provided a valid reason for any of its appointments and dismissals.

The re-appointments are allegedly based on profiling work carried out by the Intelligence Unit of the National Police Department. In Çankırı, where Çakıcı was working, about 100 officers who were labeled as being close to the parallel structure and the faith-based Hizmet movement -- which Erdoğan claims is the backbone of the parallel structure -- have been assigned to new positions. Çankırı Police Chief Ali Fuat Dağlı, who did not carry out government orders was removed from office and replaced by Cengiz Öztürk on May 13, 2014, which caused the witch-hunt that reportedly resulted in Çakıcı's suicide.
Çakıcı was allegedly the target of verbal harassment by newly appointed police officers, who said worse things were to come in their fight against the parallel structure.

A colleague of Çakıcı, who asked to remain anonymous, said pressure on police officers deemed to be affiliated with the Hizmet movement has become unbearable. “As long as the humiliation and pressure remains in place, suicides like this will continue,” he said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 June 2014, Monday