December 24, 2014

Erdoğan’s judges and extraditing Gülen

İhsan Yılmaz

In the wake of the graft and bribery scandals that went public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, resulting in the resignation of four ministers who were implicated in the scandals, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly smeared Fethullah Gülen, calling him a terrorist, without any evidence and despite the fact that he highly praised him in the past. Now he is trying to issue an Interpol “Red Notice” against Gülen.

About one year ago, the ruling party confessed that this claim and other charges -- not believed by any sane or reasonable person -- are part of an effort to create a suitable legal infrastructure as needed. At that time the ruling party had hurriedly passed abnormal bills and using a carrot-and-stick policy it has managed to effect the submission of judges and prosecutors. In this context, it reshuffled hundreds of impartial judges and prosecutors while establishing extraordinary courts where they appoint judges who publicly express loyalty to the ruling party. Erdoğan eventually obtained what he has been after: an arrest warrant for Gülen on charges of leading a terrorist organization.

The democratic international public didn't find it surprising. For about one and half years, in other words since the Gezi Park protests, the world's most prestigious papers have been publishing articles about how Erdoğan has become an authoritarian and repressive enemy of rights and freedoms, mistreating anyone who nurture and express dissident views.

Actually this is exactly what can be expected from a ruling party that ruthlessly banned Twitter and YouTube in an effort to curtail any discussion of its corrupt practices (deleted) and which ordered the police to harshly repress the peaceful protests in İstanbul's Gezi Park, causing deaths and injuries. Everywhere around the world, despotic rulers tend to call their opponents terrorists or traitors, attempting to stigmatize them before the domestic and international public. No autocratic ruler acknowledges that they attempt to destroy their rivals because they cannot bear conflicting views, ideas or objections. Instead, they made comical courts pass unlawful decisions about these dissident people.

This is what happened to Gülen, but both within Turkey and around the world, prestigious papers, politicians and intellectuals didn't take the court decision seriously. They saw it as a sign of how Turkey's ruling party lost its control in a sort of power intoxication. One does not have to be an expert in international relations or political science to see the double standards adopted by the ruling party in repeatedly declaring strategic partnership with the US, enjoying protection from Syrian missiles thanks to the NATO shield and permitting the construction of the Kürecik base in addition to the existing İncirlik base on the one hand, while trying to secure conservative votes though an anti-Western, anti-US and anti-EU rhetoric on the other.

Realizing that with its frivolous and baseless charges against the Hizmet movement, it has been making even its supporters grow weary, the ruling party rushed to invent a terrorist organization, putting itself in a ridiculous position. Furthermore, it made a court at its disposal pass a decision simply to use it for propaganda purposes during the election rally, saying, "We want the US to extradite him, but the US didn't hand him over to us because he is a member of the CIA."

The court's decision is tainted with illegality in all respects. The ruling party and its courts know Gülen's place of residence in the US and can ask the US authorities to obtain his testimony under the scope of the agreements about mutual assistance in criminal matters, but they instead knowingly chose the other way. Previously the US authorities had obtained Gülen's testimony under the mutual judicial assistance schemes about the charges from which he was acquitted. The fact that they deliberately opted to refrain from the mutual judicial assistance programs, to take the other doomed to fail method indicates that this notice is being used solely for propaganda purposes.

Furthermore, it is known that the US and Anglo-Saxon countries tend not to take red notices seriously. The red notice is not a document with any legal validity, and most Western countries examine the content of the notice and assess the evidence in it without directly accepting the assessments of the Interpol General Secretariat.

In short, based on legal theory and practices, it can be said that the Interpol General Secretariat will not issue a red notice and the US authorities will not find it necessary to send the notice to the court. Such decisions will indicate once again that Turkey tends to make unlawful demands, further undermining the country's prestige.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 December 2014, Wednesday