October 8, 2014

Pro-government paper brings back deep state arguments to target Hizmet

The government controlled Akşam daily ran a fabricated article as its lead story on Wednesday concerning a murder case involving Christian missionaries in Turkey to create the impression that the religious and social Hizmet movement acts in collaboration with Christian missionaries operating in Turkey.

Without any concrete evidence or tangible proof, Akşam based its story on the statements of Levent Ercan Gelegen, a suspect in the trial of the Ergenekon terrorist organization. Gelegen argued that he was included in the Ergenekon case when he refused to become a secret witness in the Zirve Publishing House murders, which took place in Malatya in 2007.

The Zirve Publishing House incident involved the killing of three employees of the Christian publisher. On April 18, 2007, Necati Aydın (35), Uğur Yüksel and German national Tilmann Ekkehart Geske (46) were tied to chairs and tortured to death at the publishing house. The place they worked for printed Bibles and other Christian literature.

Akşam argued in its story that the “parallel structure,” a term coined to describe the Hizmet movement after operations were staged on Dec. 17 as part of an investigation into government corruption, is behind the heinous murders of the Christian missionaries. However, the same story also argued that the parallel structure and the Christian missionaries in Turkey had acted together to blame the Turkish military for the murder of the missionaries in Turkey.

Gelegen in his remarks to Akşam claimed that the lawyer of Turkey's Protestants community, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who later began to write for Today's Zaman, a publication close to the Hizmet movement, was involved in the plot on behalf of the Hizmet movement to defame the Turkish military. He said he knows for sure that Cengiz is a Christian and has close ties to the United States, without specifying what those ties are.

Talking to Today's Zaman, lawyer and columnist Cengiz said he considers this report a complete fabrication and that he will sue the Akşam daily. Stating that he became the lawyer of the Turkish Protestant community in 2000, Cengiz said he naturally had close ties with Protestants in Turkey -- especially during the trial of the Zirve suspects. According to Cengiz, evidence in the Zirve case is solid, and that in order to weaken the case, the deep state within the Turkish military sent letters of defamation to the court about him after the ties between the Zirve murders and Ergenekon were discovered.

According to Cengiz, what is striking in Akşam's false story is the resemblance with past allegations disseminated by the Ergenekon network. Cengiz argues that the fact that a government-controlled media outlet brought up falsified arguments about the lawyers of the case shows there is a link between the deep state in Turkey and the AK Party government.

Cengiz says Amnesty International made an urgent global call to raise awareness about the safety of the lawyers in the Zirve case because of the grave threat to security he faced back in 2008-2009. According to Cengiz, the deep state in Turkey did not expect people to discover the ties between the Zirve murderers and Ergenekon and wanted to create the impression that the murders were individually motivated.

Cengiz also spoke of local media reporting during the Zirve case accusing him of planning the murders of the missionaries due to an alleged clash of US and German interests in Turkey.

Cengiz also said the Ankara Prosecutor's Office appointed a bodyguard for him due to the serious threats he received at the time. Cengiz believes he might again be a target because of his recent transfer to the Bugün daily, which is sympathetic to the Hizmet movement. He also believes that the Zirve case is being used in order to create the impression that it was a plot against the military.

Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş pointed out the factual mistakes in Akşam's fabricated story. Stating that Cengiz started writing for Today's Zaman in 2009, Keneş said Akşam's story tries to establish a connection between the paper and Cengiz back in 2007. He also notes that Cengiz is not a Christian, contrary to what the paper argues. Keneş said the personal faiths of people should not be anyone's business, describing Cengiz as a defender of human rights irrespective of the background of the victims.

As far as Today's Zaman's coverage of the Zirve murders is concerned, Keneş says his newspaper is a media outlet that shows equal sensitivity towards any politically motivated and suspicious murders, such as the murder of a judge at the Council of State, that of Hrant Dink, and of Pastor Santoro during the same period in which Ergenekon was active in Turkey.

In mid-August, suspects in the Zirve trial accused the “parallel structure” of the heinous murders of the Christian missionaries. One of the defendants, Abdullah Atılgan, argued during the 95th hearing in the trial that another suspect had been used by the “parallel structure.”

The lawyer of the families of the Zirve victims, Erdal Doğan, also commented to Today's Zaman in words similar to those of Cengiz that the allegations in Akşam's report are identical to the false stories that appeared in the local media during the first hearings of the trial.

Describing Akşam's reporting as totally irresponsible since they are targeting Christians in Turkey and their lawyers with propaganda, Doğan noted that several suspects are currently being tried for fabricating documents disseminating similar arguments as the report in Akşam. Doğan said false letters of complaint sent to the court and fabricated documents portrayed victims and their lawyers as "actors of global imperialism."

Published on Today's Zaman, 08 October 2014, Wednesday