July 6, 2014

Police unlawfully order probe into Hizmet on fictitious accusations

The National Police Department has recently sent a written order to police departments in 30 provinces and in which it accused the faith-based Hizmet movement of working to overthrow the government with no shred of evidence and asked the police to inquire if the movement is an armed group.

The order was dated June 25 but found media coverage only on Sunday. It was drafted by head of the National Police Department counterterrorism unit (TEM) Turgut Aslan.

In the order, which includes 23 articles, Aslan claimed -- without providing any evidence -- that Hizmet seeks to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and seize the control of the state by abolishing the constitutional order. The TEM head asked officials at police departments of 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. He also asked the officials to inquire in their provinces members of Hizmet to see if they have any armed power.

Aslan's order has followed an earlier order by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Serdar Çoşkun who sent an order to the Ankara Police Department and its Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau (KOM) on June 11 to carry out a secret and unlawful investigation into the Hizmet movement. As part of the investigation, the prosecutor asked the police to find out what the “parallel structure” -- a reference to the Hizmet movement -- is exactly, who the members are, what the objectives of this group are, how it is organized and what its human and financial resources are. Prosecutor Coşkun also asked KOM to cooperate with the Ankara Police Department Counterterrorism Unit to find out if the Hizmet movement is an armed group and if it may be considered a terrorist organization.

In the order, the prosecutor defined the movement as the “Fethullah Gülen Congregation” and asked the police department to gather intelligence about its members as well as media organs, civil society organs, private schools, student dormitories, exam preparation schools, companies, foundations and associations affiliated with Hizmet. This intelligence is then likely to be used to initiate an operation against the movement.

To comply, the Ankara Police Department would need to profile all 76 million citizens of Turkey to see whether they have any ties to the Hizmet movement. It was not immediately clear how many of those citizens have been profiled already.

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 local elections.

In his order, head of the National Police Department counterterrorism unit Aslan asked heads of the 30 police departments to inquire if Hizmet members have the strength to overthrow the government or abolish the Constitution if they happen to have any armed power.

Attempt to link Hizmet to murders

In addition, in his order Aslan asked police departments to carry out a probe to see if the Hizmet movement had any role in some infamous assassinations that have shaken Turkey in recent years, which include the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, the murder of Catholic priest Father 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 bookstore 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, Aslan asked the police to search locations belonging to members of the Hizmet movement to see if they possess any documents related to the assassinations. If they discover any such records, Aslan noted in his order that the documents should immediately be sent to the National Police Department.

Aslan also asked the police to carry out a comprehensive inquiry to investigate the activities of the Hizmet movement and its higher-ups, including Gülen and his close circle. In his order, the TEM head said the police should find out for what individual or foreign group the movement works and how often its prominent members leave Turkey. He also stated that the police should find out if any Hizmet member has been involved in a criminal act.

Aslan also asked the police officials to obtain the required court orders to wiretap the phone conversations of members of the Hizmet movement.

In addition, he asked police officials to find secret witnesses who will speak against the Hizmet movement. According to Aslan, the witnesses may be individuals who stood accused in a number of criminal cases that were opened after 2003 -- shortly after the AK Party rose to power. The TEM head was covertly referring to the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases, which contain alleged plans to overthrow the AK Party government. Among those individuals, he cited former Police Chief Hanefi Avcı, who was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization but released last month after the Constitutional Court found that Avcı's right to a fair trial had been violated; Celal Uzunkaya, a police chief who testified to a public prosecutor in 2009 as part of a major investigation of aggravated fraud; and Emin Arslan, a former deputy police chief who was arrested in 2009 over ties to a drug lord.

Aslan went on to order the officials at the 30 police departments to find out about academics at universities who have done research or written books about Gülen and his movement. The TEM head also asked the officials to send him copies of such research and books.

Scandalous orders from Aslan

* Find the archives of the Hizmet movement
* Find out who the members of the Hizmet movement are
* Carry out searches across the country to find evidence against the movement
* Wiretap the phone conversations of Hizmet members
* Inquire if Hizmet has armed power
* Find secret witnesses to speak against Hizmet
* Investigate Hizmet's links to criminal acts such as the Council of State attack and Dink murder
* Discover for whom or for which foreign organization Hizmet works
* Talk to spies who have infiltrated Hizmet
* Research media reports on Hizmet
* Profile newspapers and TV channels affiliated with Hizmet
* Profile students staying at Hizmet dormitories
* Find about Hizmet's economic power
* Question Hanefi Avcı and Emin Aslan about Hizmet
* Interrogate Ergenekon and Balyoz victims about Hizmet
* Find academics who have done research on Hizmet
* Collect books mentioning Hizmet

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