September 1, 2014

Police officer coerced into testifying against Hizmet

Seyyit Akşit, a police officer who was detained on accusations of involvement in theft and misconduct and subsequently pressured into testifying against the Hizmet movement in exchange for a guarantee that he would be released, has sent information to the prosecutor conducting the investigation because the promises were not fulfilled.

This document shows the police officer, Seyyit Akşit, was pressured into testifying against the Hizmet movement in exchange for a guarantee that he would be released.

Uncovering the details of a plot against the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Akşit was detained on Aug. 8 and interrogated by two high-ranking police chiefs, Erdinç Elpe and Murat Çelik.

According to information provided by Akşit, he was coerced into testifying against the Hizmet movement and was threatened with dismissal if he did not act in accordance with the two police chiefs' demands that he present fabricated evidence during his testimony. Upon receiving the threats, Akşit agreed to testify that a number of police chiefs and officers as well as civilians were plotting against the government. It is written as if the statements are truthful, but in fact, they were the product of coercion.

However, despite the fact that Akşit testified in line with the demands of the two police chiefs, the promise to release Akşit was not kept and he was arrested under the pretense of the original accusations against him. Following the arrest, Akşit wrote a three-page explanatory letter to the prosecutor, saying: “I gave the testimony under pressure and threats from the two police officers and was [coerced into] making accusations against the people I named in the testimony. I do actually not know [anyone named] Dr. Nebi, [but] I mentioned him in my testimony. I just read his name in line with the instructions the police chiefs gave to me.”

Akşit has filed a complaint about Elpe and Çelik.

In his letter to the prosecutor, Akşit wrote that he was forced to slander the Hizmet movement and testify against the movement as a secret witness in the investigation into the so-called parallel structure and its members. He also maintains that he was threatened with dismissal if he resisted testifying against the movement.

After Akşit was assured that he would be released from police custody, he was asked to sign a list that named certain individuals and members of the police force allegedly affiliated with the Hizmet movement; his signature would indicate that the list was part of his testimony. While Akşit read the text, a police officer was taking notes about what Akşit was doing.

The testimony text includes the allegation that each police officer listed in the testimony donated TL 250-500 per month to the Hizmet movement. After Akşit signed the testimony, he was sent to the prosecutor's office, arrested and put in prison.

Akşit realized that he had been deceived by the police chiefs and that their promises to release him would not be fulfilled, so he decided to reveal the plot against the Hizmet movement. Upon receiving the letter, Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Tayfun Kaya launched an investigation into Elpe and Çelik.

In his letter to Kaya, Akşit stated that he has no ties to the Hizmet movement. "After I was detained, I was forced to testify against the movement. All information in the testimony text was written by the police chiefs and given to me. None of the information about the movement reflects the truth. I did not suffer at all [because of] the movement during my time [as a police officer]. I have made a complaint against the two police chiefs who put pressure on me to testify against the movement."

When a massive corruption investigation into the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) became public on Dec. 17, the AK Party responded to the graft allegations by removing police officers and members of the judiciary from their current positions and reappointing them to less influential posts or expelling them completely whenever possible. Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims that a parallel structure affiliated with the Hizmet movement is behind the corruption probe, although he has produced no proof to support this claim. Several businessmen close to the government as well as the sons of three ministers were detained in the investigation on Dec. 17.

However, the probe has stalled since the government took the prosecutors conducting it off the case in response to the allegations leveled against it.

Published on Today's Zaman, 01 September 2014, Monday