December 16, 2014

Behind the scenes of Tahşiyeciler setup as pretext for clampdown on free press

Bülent Korucu

The police conducted an operation against an al-Qaeda-linked organization in 2010. The order for this operation was given by then-Police Chief Oğuz Kağan Köksal, who is currently a deputy for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). One of the members of this organization who was tried under this operation decided to take advantage of the government's "parallel" paranoia and filed a complaint in connection with this operation. This complaint is now being used as a pretext for the recent crackdown on journalists.

This media coup is the top agenda item in Turkey. A number of people including Zaman daily Editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca were taken into custody. It is hard to make a technical analysis of the decision and connections as such an attempt would tax the boundaries of our mind and legal system. The operation decision was apparently hurriedly made as soon as the legal framework for "reasonable doubt" was created. "Reasonable doubt" can be defined as "doubt which Aunt Ayşe would consider reasonable," as Milliyet's Güngör Uras put it.

Actually, there is no reasonable doubt. Let us read the decision with the help of the template prepared by media outlets close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who can be considered the mastermind behind the operation. There is allegedly an organization which is conspiring against a rival religious community with members numbering in the thousands. A police operation was conducted against the group Tahşiyeciler (roughly translated as annotators) in 2010. The operation was announced by Muammer Güler, who was the governor of İstanbul at that time. All newspapers covered the operation in detail. TV networks like CNNTürk and Habertürk broadcasted the videos of Mehmet Doğan, the alleged leader of the organization. In these video recordings, Doğan said it is "obligatory for Muslims to join al-Qaeda." He made a call to armed struggle and depicted the AK Party as being one of the barriers to an Islamic state. The trial is still under way.

Following the start of the "parallel" paranoia, one of the defendants in this lawsuit filed a complaint about these "parallels." The prosecutor took the complaint seriously and launched an investigation into those listed in the complaint. The prosecutor claims individuals including Dumanlı and Karaca are trying to take over the sovereignty of the state. How are they doing it? By committing "slander" against the complainant, "depriving him of his freedom" and "falsifying documents." These acts are defined as offenses under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), but they have nothing to do with the efforts to take over the sovereignty of the state. Also, there is no evidence of "slander" and other offenses. Reading the text, one would be inclined to believe Dumanlı and Karaca had abducted the man in question. Construing a court's arrest warrant as "depriving one's freedom" will be etched as a gross scandal in legal history. Such absurdities are what made me say there isn't even reasonable doubt.

The following is offered as explanation for the offense of slander: In his speech broadcast on April 6, 2009, Fethullah Gülen cautions that a new reactionaryism campaign might be kicked off. He indicates that al-Qaeda-like terrorist networks are hard at work to find a suitable environment in Turkey. He draws attention to the fact that the powers that positioned Hezbollah against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) might create al-Qaeda-like organizations. The name of this new organization might be Tahşiyeciler and the members of this organization might be equipped with arms to conjure up the perception that "Muslims may get involved in terrorism when they have the chance." Gülen is actually talking about a generic “front” terrorist organization.

One of the notable developments of 2009 was the public disclosure of the plan to finish off the AK Party and Gülen. According to this plan, the police would raid the houses of the members of the Hizmet movement and find weapons which had been secretly planted beforehand and in this way, the movement would be treated as a terrorist organization by public authorities.

Eight months after Gülen made this speech, the police launched a crackdown on the members of an organization which was allegedly an al-Qaeda offshoot. The preparation for this operation was made by Hüseyin Namal, the head of the Intelligence Department, and the operation was given the go-ahead by Köksal.

According to the "unreasonable" claim, Gülen delivered a speech and the Zaman daily ran a news story about it. Ahmet Şahin and Hüseyin Gülerce wrote articles about it while Samanyolu TV covered it in the TV show "Tek Türkiye" (One Turkey). In this way, the Gülen-affiliated police chiefs and officers received the order to conduct an operation against these innocent people, who were jailed for 17 months. It is ridiculous to say that Gülen was sending instructions via media outlets. Given the political atmosphere of 2009, even idiots can see that it would be a great risk to do so. Moreover, let us suppose that he did in fact give such instructions. Then isn't it necessary to take action against Namal and Köksal in the first place?

Gülen's speeches are closely monitored by all media outlets. His remarks in question were quoted by many outlets, including Vatan newspaper. Many columnists wrote articles about it. "Reactionaryism is an excuse; an organization called 'Tahşiye' might be invented at any time" was the title of a news story on Vatan. So are we supposed to treat Vatan Editor-in-chief Tayfun Devecioğlu as a suspect? Zaman and Vatan ran virtually the same story; even the headline of Vatan's story was more striking. Dumanlı and Devecioğlu are exactly in the same position; their papers ran a story about the same speech. Both didn't write them.

The inclusion of Samanyolu TV in the operation is even funnier. The designer, scriptwriter, director, intern and top manager of the network are being treated as suspects. The excuse is that the script of the show and daily life had overlapped... This is currently what such serials try to do. Their scriptwriters diligently read newspapers and their insights may be accurate. The same applies to the famous serial "Kurtlar Vadisi" (Valley of the Wolves). I think everyone involved in the serial should be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2014, Tuesday