As part of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's efforts to crack down on independent media outlets that are critical of the government, Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of the nation's best-selling daily, has been charged with "establishing and administrating an armed organization" under anti-terrorism legislation based on two op-ed pieces and one article published in his newspaper five years ago.
Zaman allegedly published stories defaming suspected members of an al-Qaeda-linked group, while several episodes of Samanyolu TV soap operas condemned the group for its call to violence and solidarity with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
However, a Turkish court ruled on Friday to release Dumanlı, five days after he was detained following his interrogation. Dumanlı responded to the charges by saying he has been professionally managing the newspaper for the last 13 years and does not have any personal involvement with articles critical of the government written by columnists that are regular contributors to the paper.
Upon his release, Dumanlı said he responded to the prosecutor by saying that it is not the prosecutor's business to question what articles and news stories he should run.
However, the court ruled that four people -- including Samanyolu TV General Manager Hidayet Karaca, who was also charged under anti-terrorism legislation -- are to be arrested pending trial. The government-backed operation against these two prominent journalists and a number of other media professionals has been blasted by opposition parties and media organizations for undermining freedom of the press.
Here is the full transcript of questions by the prosecutor and responses by Dumanlı during the deposition:
Question: Briefly introduce yourself.
Answer: I was born in Yozgat in 1964. I graduated from the Faculty of Letters at İstanbul University. I have been working as a journalist for 20 years. I received a master's degree in journalism in the US. I have been the editor-in-chief of the Zaman newspaper since 2001. At the same time, I pen columns for the same paper. I have written 12 books on journalism, theater, cinema and current events.
Question: Do you know Fethullah Gülen? How long have you known him and to what extent?
Answer: I knew about Mr. Fethullah Gülen remotely through his sermons and speeches. I listened to the sermons he gave at the Süleymaniye and Fatih mosques. Later, I had a chance to make his acquaintance personally. In my personal opinion, he is a distinguished Islamic scholar and intellectual.
Question: Do you follow the statements of Fethullah Gülen, his books or news stories about him? Explain.
Answer: I follow the books and views of Fethullah Gülen just as I follow other leading intellectuals in Turkey.
Question: Have you ever watched a speech by Fethullah Gülen on any website on the Internet?
- If you did, what was the date of the speech and the name of the website?
- Did you watch the speeches posted on the website www.herkul.com in 2009?
- What were the speeches posted in April 2009 about?
Answer: I listen to Fethullah Gülen's speeches if they attract my attention. I don't remember any speech made by Fethullah Gülen in 2009 in which any reference to Tahşiye was made. Herkul.org is a publicly accessible website. On this website, Fethullah Gülen makes speeches about any issue. I follow those that engage my attention. The speeches on this website are followed by all of Turkey. Many newspapers publish news stories and articles about them.
Question: Has Fethullah Gülen every given you a mission or instructions, either personally or via intermediaries? Explain in detail.
Answer: During my time as the editor-in-chief of Zaman newspaper, I have never received any request or instructions from Fethullah Gülen to publish anything about any matter.
Question: Do you know the person named Mustafa Akın? How long have you known him? Explain.
- How much information do you have about this person? Explain.
- Have you ever met this person? Explain.
Answer: This is the first time I have heard of a person named Mustafa Akın. I don't have any information about this person. I haven't met him before, as I don't know him.
Question: Did you know the person named Mustafa Sungur, who is now dead? When did you become acquainted with him? Explain.
- How much information do you have about this person? Explain.
- Have you ever met this person? Explain.
Answer: I know the person named Mustafa Sungur from the media reports as a disciple of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. I have encountered him in perrson. Therefore, I have never met him.
Question: Do you know the meanings of the words “tahşiye” (annotation) and “rahle” (lectern)?
Answer: I don't know the meaning of the word “tahşiye.” I know the word “haşiye.” But this is the first time I heard the word “tahşiye.” “Haşiye” literally means “explanation.” A “rahle” is an object on which the holy Quran is placed during recitation.
Question: Did you hear the words “Tahşiye” and “Rahle” before or after 2009?
- Have you ever researched the words “Tahşiye” and “Rahle”?
- Did you know “Tahşiye” and “Rahle” were the names of publishing houses?
Answer: As can be understood from my answer to a previous question, I first heard these words from you. Therefore, I didn't research these words. I didn't know “Tahşiye” and “Rahle” were the names of the publishing houses. This, too, I learn from you now.
Question: Are you familiar with the books published by the Tahşiye and Rahle publishing houses?
- Have you read any books published by these publishing houses?
- Do you know the owner or owners of these publishing houses?
- Do you know this publishing house belongs to members of a group that is a branch of the Nur community?
Answer: Actually, I have already answered these questions above. As I don't know these publishing houses, I don't know what sort of books they publish or who publishes them.
Question: According to the report numbered 2014/6117 sent to the Electronic Communication Branch on May 16, 2014, Mehmet Nuri Turan gave the following written statement to the İstanbul Police Department Counterterrorism Unit on May 31, 2014 and Nov. 11, 2014:
“In a speech titled “Reactionaryism Paranoia” posted on the website www.herkul.org on April 6, 2009, Fethullah Gülen targeted the Tahşiye publishing house and Mehmet Doğan group which is a branch of the Nur community. After the speech was posted on the website …, I met with Mustafa Sungur and Mustafa Akın, who are known within the Community [Risale-I Nur], and asked them to inquire why Fethullah Gülen had targeted the Tahşiye publishing house, which belongs to me. They said they would inquire into the matter and get back to me. One week later, these two people said they had met with the elders at a breakfast and that there was no problem regarding the publishing house.”
- Did you meet Mustafa Sungur or Mustafa Akın in connection with the matters Mehmet Nuri Turan mentioned in his statement?
- Did you attend the meeting Mustafa Sungur and Mustafa Akın had with the people called the elders? Did you hear about such a meeting? Explain.
Answer: I have no knowledge about the incident complainant Mehmet Nuri Turan mentioned above. I don't know those people. I don't have any knowledge about the meeting in question. It is not connected to me any manner.
Question: Based on the report numbered 2014/6117 he sent to the Communication Electronic Branch on May 16, 2014, Mehmet Nuri Turan gave the following statement at İstanbul Police Directorate Counter-Terrorism Branch on May 31, 2014 and on Nov. 11, 2014: “I met the person named Fahri Sarrafoğlu in Van Breakfast Restaurant on Vatan street in Fatih district of İstanbul in May 2009.”
- Did you know of this meeting between these two people. Explain.
Answer: I heard the name Fahri Sarrafoğlu for the first time from you. I have no connection with the above-mentioned incident.
Question: In his speech titled “Reactionaryism Paranoia” posted on the website www.herkul.org on April 6, 2009, Fethullah Gülen said: “In Turkey, they have invented it as well. Just as they have invented Hizbul Vahşet, they have invented it, too. Tomorrow, they may invent other things. For instance, they may come up with something called 'Tahşiyhe'. May God forbid, if they can conjure up a good setup, they may make these people sneak into true Muslims, the Muslims who read books, and the Muslims who try to protect their uprightness and decency and intellectual integrity by reading books. If they can make them stronger, they may give them weapons, and they may hang the posters of the person who is behind [writing] those books in their homes. They may hang the posters of certain people who are close to you at their homes. They may make them say, 'We are making annotations to the Risale-i Nur collection.' Then they may start to call themselves 'Tahşiyeciler' [Annotators]. Then they may give Kalashnikov riffles to them. And when they get involved in several incidents, they may say, 'These people arm themselves when they have a chance'. Then they may propagate it to you who don't have any weapons and [not] even a packing needle. In my opinion, you don't have even a packing needle [as a weapon]. I am not exaggerating it, am I? Recently, I needed a big sewing needle to repair my shoes in my room, but I couldn't find any. They will stigmatize the people who don't have even a needle as terrorists and they will do whatever they intend to do. May God give them no chance to do so! May God entangle them in their own conspiracies! In this regard, none of this will be a cure for any problem in Turkey. Rather, these are certain formations which seek to create problems and which are advertised as a cure, but actually lead to various problems. So far they have come to being in diverse patterns. They may emerge in future as well. They will create them by hand and they will portray them as [being involved in] reactionary activities. They will link them with reactionaryism. They will try to target, as a seer had once said, 'the book which is said to have been revealed 14 centuries ago.' May God forbid me from saying it, but they will say it. All of these are the systematic things conducted in compliance with the decisions made at the Dark Decision Boards.” Did you listen to the speech whose date and posting place were given above?
- To whom does Fethullah Gülen refer in this speech?
- Does Fethullah Gülen target Tahşiye publishing house and the people who belong to a group which is a branch of the Nur community in this speech?
- Which dark decision board does Fethullah Gülen refer to in his speech with “things conducted in compliance with the decisions made at the dark decision boards”?
Answer: I don't remember the above-mentioned speech which allegedly belongs to Fethullah Gülen. As I don't remember the speech, I cannot make any comment on what the speech refers to. There is no connection [to the speech] between Samanyolu TV channel and Zaman newspaper where I am the editor-in-chief. I cannot know what the phrase “dark decision boards” in Fethullah Gülen's speech may refer to. I have submitted my article that appeared in the Zaman newspaper on Oct. 11, 2008, and I submit it to you as well. In this article, I announced that I would not watch TV. I advised my readers not to watch TV so that they can spend time with their kids. Since then, I have not been watching TV. I follow news stories on the Internet.
Question: Is there any legal connection between Fethullah Gülen and Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV channel?
- What is the position and duty of this person regarding Zaman daily and Samanyolu TV channel? Explain.
Answer: Fethullah Gülen does not have any executive position within the Zaman newspaper. He just writes an article under his column titled “Kürsü” (Rostrum) on Friday every week. His articles are published in that column. I don't know if he has any connection with Samanyolu TV channel.
Question: Are Fethullah Gülen's discourse and instructions taken as a basis for shaping the Zaman newspaper's editorial policy and deciding which news stories will be published?
Answer: Fethullah Gülen does not interfere with Zaman newspaper's editorial policy. It [this policy] is not shaped according to his instructions. Such a thing is out of question. Regarding the section from Hüseyin Gülerce's statement you read to me, I never said in any interview that Zaman daily is faxed to Fethullah Gülen. A fax machine is outdated technology now. Such a thing is out of the question.
[A total of] 5,000-8,000 news stories come to newspapers daily. These stories are picked and assessed by the relevant units and newsworthy stories are selected by each unit. Even before they are sent to newspapers, stories are screened by the news agencies. Each unit prepares its page using the stories selected. Then these pages are sent to editor-in-chief or his assistants. The most important pieces are placed on the front page of the newspaper. It is impossible and impractical to send so many news stories and photographs to Fethullah Gülen for his approval. Moreover, Turkey and the US are located in different timezones. This is physically impossible as well. We hold an editorial meeting about the headline, first page and other pages of the newspaper at 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. This time slice corresponds to 5 a.m. in the morning in the US. Therefore, it is impossible to do such a thing. News stories are tossed around on the Internet so quickly that you cannot have any chance to consult to anyone or seek his/her approval about them.
Question: Two days after Fethullah Gülen made the above-mentioned speech on www.herkul.org on April 6, 2009, the newspaper for which you work as the editor-in-chief published a news story titled “Those who produce terrorist organizations are after another plot,” and in this story, the Tahşiye publishing house, which is a branch of the Nur community and which publishes the Risale-i Nur Collection by Said Nursi, and the members of the group who were targeted by Fethullah Gülen, were portrayed as if they were linked to terrorist organizations to manipulate public perceptions and lay the groundwork for potential investigations in the future.
- Do you think it is a coincidence that the same speech Fethullah Gülen delivered on April 6, 2009 was published on Zaman newspaper two days later on April 8, 2009?
- What was the reason you published the news story titled “Those who produce terrorist organizations are after another plot” in the Zaman newspaper on April 8, 2009?
- Our impression is that by portraying the Tahşiye publishing house which publishes the Risale-i Nur Collection by Said Nursi and the people who are close to this group as linked to terrorist organizations, you tried to manipulate public perception. Did you do this?
Answer: Above, I tried to explain briefly how our newspaper picks up news stories for publication. Apparently the reporter who covered the speech by Mr. Gülen found it newsworthy and put it on the paper. This news story was published on the third page of the newspaper. If I had attached much importance to it, I would have placed it on the first page of the newspaper -- given my position as the editor-in-chief -- or I would have discussed it in my column. My colleagues who dealt with that page apparently made their own assessment and put it on the third page. They opted for a direct quote of Mr. Gülen's speech. Moreover, the same speech was covered by Ertuğrul Özkok in the Hürriyet newspaper on April 9, 2009, and likewise, Vatan newspaper ran a news story about it on April 9, 2009. Should these people be charged with the same accusation just because they covered the speech? The same matter was discussed by Zaman newspaper's columnists Hüseyin Gülerce and Ahmet Şahin. No one gave them any order or instruction to do so.
There are editors in charge of each unit in the newspaper. There are also editors for the unit that publishes commentaries. They read and assess the articles coming from columnists and if they think these articles are related to the agenda, they inform the editors of the first page. The first page editor may choose to announce the article on the first page. The editor for commentaries may consult to the legal department if they think there might be legal problem with the article in question and then they inform me about it. Excluding these cases, none of [the editors of the] commentaries and columns seeks my approval. Likewise, my approval was not sought for the articles by Hüseyin Gülerce and Ahmet Şahin.
I submit the copies of Hürriyet newspaper and Vatan newspaper dated April 9, 2009 containing the articles with the same content.
The relevant pages containing the articles were taken and placed into the case file.
I was not part of such an effort. I explained how our newspaper publish news stories.
Question: Did you meet with or talk to Fethullah Gülen about this Tahşiye matter which he referred to in his speech titled “Reactionaryism Paranoia” posted on the website www.herkul.org on April 6, 2009? Explain.
Answer: I didn't meet with or talk to Fethullah about the matters in his speech titled “Reactionaryism Paranoia.” But from time to time, I interviewed him and visited him. These visits were made for journalistic purposes.
Question: In the “Dark Decision Board” scene of the 64th episode of the TV series “Tek Türkiye” (One Turkey) which was aired on Samanyolu TV channel on April 9, 2009, there was the following dialogue among the players:
X-1 Man: The name of our new project will be TAHŞİYE.
Y-1 Woman: Sir, pardon, but what sort of an action plan is this? This is the first time we've heard of it.
X-1 Man: We will get this movement treated as an armed terrorist organization.
X-2 Man: We will put arms and equipment used in previous terrorist attacks into these places and we will get them found in police raids.
X-1 Man: With this TAHŞİYE plan, we will crack down on them with a reactionaryism wave before they crack down on us with new waves.
- Did you watch the 64th episode of the serial?
- Did you receive any instruction that the series should cover the Tahşiye matter? Did you give such an instruction?
- To whom does the sentence, “We will get this movement treated as an armed terrorist organization” refer?
- Does the phrase “things conducted in compliance with the decisions made at the dark decision boards” in Fethullah Gülen's speech refer to the same dark decision board in the TV series “Tek Türkiye?”
Answer: I noted this above. In an article titled “Farewell to TV” I wrote in 2008, I declared that I don't watch TV at home. I don't watch TV at home. I don't know what the Samanyolu TV channel's series was about. I didn't receive any instruction to cover the Tahşiye matter in the TV series in question because we are not connected to the Samanyolu TV channel. Without any connection to the TV station in question, I am in no position to receive any instruction. I don't know what Fethullah Gülen refers to with this phrase “Dark Decision Board” which is allegedly from his speech.
Question: It is claimed that the word “tahşiye” was used in the “Dark Decision Board” scene in Episode 66 of the serial “Tek Türkiye” to link the word to a terrorist organization and to target it.
- What is the purpose behind the attempt to link the word “tahşiye” with a terrorist organization?
- Is it a coincidence that although the word “tahşiye” is unknown to the public, the Zaman newspaper ran a news story about it on April 8, 2009, i.e., two days after the speech made on April 6, 2009, and it was mentioned in the “Tek Türkiye” serial on April 9, 2009?
Answer: We are in no way connected to the serial in question. We just covered it in our newspaper. The news story in question was picked up by an editor. I have no other comment to make about it. I don't want to comment about this matter.
Question: It is understood that the words “tahşiye” and “rahle” were targeted by linking them to a terrorist organization with the use of these words in the “Dark Decision Board” scene of Episode 66 of the serial “Tek Türkiye.”
- What is the purpose behind the portrayal of the words “rahşiye” and “rahle” as linked to terrorist organizations?
- What is the purpose behind the picking up of “tahşiye” and “rahle” as the name of the terrorist organization?
Answer: I don't think it is proper to search for connections between the incidents in fictional works like short stories, serials or films and occurrences in real life. For instance, 10 years before [Barack] Obama was elected as the US president, a film had told the story of a black person being elected to this office although no black person had ever been elected as president. Ten years later, Obama became president. Can we say that Obama became president in connection with this film? Therefore, fictional stories in serials and films should be interpreted this way.
[Author] Necip Fazıl [Kısakürek] was arrested when a suspect who was detained in connection with an incident in Malatya said he read a book by Necip Fazıl and was inspired by it. Necip Fazıl said, “If people are arrested for this, then Shakespeare should be taken from his grave and executed several times.” [Serials] should be construed with this approach in mind. The serial on the Samanyolu TV channel is not connected to me in any manner, but I am urged to note this as a person who wrote one book on cinema and two short story collections.
Question: You attended the TV program titled “5N1K,” aired on CNN Türk TV channel on March 19, 2014, and presenter Cüneyt Özdemir asked: “Mr. Dumanlı, you didn't ask this in your interview, but there are interesting details in the audio recordings which Fethullah Gülen accepted. For instance, a person -- I don't know who is; he might be TUSKON Secretary-General Mustafa Günay -- gives information to Mr. Gülen about various details, developments in the business world. He is informed about which businessman should bid for a refinery in Uganda. He is asked what will happen to a bank. A section is read from a scenario of a TV serial and he is consulted about his opinion. How does Mr. Gülen find time to do all this? Why does he do this?”
He asked why Fethullah Gülen's instructions and approval were sought for the TV serial “Şefkat Tepe” and other matters, and in response, you told Cüneyt Özdemir:
“Yes, but this is not what Mr. Gülen does. People tend to convey their observations, impressions and convictions in society, in their professional lives or relations to Mr. Gülen. This is, I think, is not crime. Mr. Gülen does not elicit information from them, saying, ‘Tell me about this or that.' Rather, people call him, saying, ‘I paid a visit to this person or that.' None of these phone calls was initiated by Mr. Gülen, or this is what I remember. In all cases, people call him to tell him unnecessary things. I listened to some of them and I told to myself, ‘This is unnecessary.' But as you will notice, Mr. Gülen just listens to them and says, ‘OK, it is up to you...'
What matters did you bring to Fethullah Gülen in a similar way to the abovementioned?
- How can you explain it?
Answer: I gave a live interview to Cüneyt Özdemir. This is true. As [I] said there, people call up Mr. Gülen on the phone, share the things they consider important. Mr. Gülen listens to them. As I said there, I didn't hear Mr. Gülen issue any instruction. He just says, “OK, it is up to you.” I told Cüneyt Özdemir such things were unnecessary. If there are voice recordings as Cüneyt Özdemir mentioned, I believe these are unlawfully obtained recordings which cannot be used for legal purposes.
Question: The following is a phone conversation between Fethullah Gülen and Hidayet Karaca on Oct. 10, 2013, which we obtained through our open source work. The conversation was not denied by Fethullah Gülen's lawyer, Nurullah Albayrak, nor did you deny it, as you attended the 5N1K TV program aired on CNNTürk on March 19, 2014:
FETHULLAH GÜLEN: May God give you well-being! Please include me in your prayers.
HİDAYET KARACA: Of course, sir ... I would like to bring this week's Şefkat Tepe to your attention.
FETHULLAH GÜLEN: Please, go ahead.
HİDAYET KARACA: Well, the same man we refer to as the diplomat says: “In addition to the visible side of the developments, there is the behind-the-scenes side. Like us. We will never relinquish our goals regarding this country. Some groups may continue to believe that the tutelage has come to an end and nothing will be the same, the sledgehammers will just change their appearance, just like a frog, but continue to crush them on the head. What you are expected to do is to go on without stopping.
Another: Sir, why is this an analogy with a frog? Are we like a frog?
The diplomat: If you drop the frog in hot water, it will quickly be scalded and it will make much noise, and you cannot attain your target. But if you put it into warm water and start to heat the water, what will happen? The frog will get accustomed to the boiling water, and it will not make any noise.
Agha: Just as the frog gets accustomed to the boiling water, the taboo matters that people find unacceptable when they first hear the will slowly and gradually make their way to the agenda, and people will get used to them. Thus we will attain our goal silently and without noise.
NGO: We used the tactic you ordered and made good progress. You are right, sir, as always. What is our strategy, our road map for the coming days?
The diplomat: We will focus on the negotiations. We must use our agents in the political scene to argue that the negotiations must go on under the chairmanship of an independent person, delegation or state.
Agha: Moreover, the structure has been legitimized using the facilities available to the executives who are our friends as well as the sums we obtained from drug smuggling and human trafficking. Most importantly, the illegal structure has been institutionalized in economic, social and cultural areas. You, Tersian, what is your project?
The Tersian: Sir, we must threaten a certain side by claiming that the expected steps were not taken and hinting that the solution process might be terminated if there is no agreement. As everyone is occupied with this, it is getting easier for us to place our men and agents into your country and design the region to our will. Village assemblies and urban organizations have been completed; now big cities are our new target.
The diplomat: Very nice, you, Tersians, work very well. You have incited the countries in the Sunni world and taught them a lesson. With the tension you instigated, you have paved the way to become the big brother in the region. Now, you will shine more and more. The embargo against your country will appear to continue. You will be portrayed as the Muslim world's dignified and oppressed country. As you can guess, the coming year will be your year. Everything will lead to Tersia.
The Tersian: You have gotten used to subterfuge (taqiyya). You see, it is so easy to carry out subterfuge.
NGO: It is said, “Befriend a cross-eyed man and you become the man of subterfuge.”
The Tersian: As we become the big brother in the Muslim world and the Middle East, you will regain ownership of the country thanks to us. We have penetrated the most important and most sensitive institutions in the country. We have trapped the rich businessmen, heads of NGOs, politicians, executives of foundations and associations without our mutah marriage setup and moles. We have their sex tapes. We can make them do everything for us. Just as we control them, this means you also control them.
Agha: This is good news, but what about the Community? Can you control the Community as well? Can't you?
The Tersian: We are sorry to disappoint you in this regard. But we are not sitting idly about that matter. Just as we discussed in previous meeting, a different team of friends is working quite efficiently. Don't forget that they are under our influence.
NGO: This is good, but a team of people that is positioned among the groups and considered by the Community to be friendly is actually contributing to hatred and grudges against the Community; They are writing articles on the newly established websites and trying to target the Community, but their efforts are a bit amateurish. It would appear they are going to expose their true identities. We should be more careful about this matter and act more professionally.
Agha: Still, this team achieves unimaginable things with their smart moves. We would never imagine that the Community would be attacked with such intensity. In particular, this plan to shut down the prep schools was a perfect move. And it would be perfect if they could shut them down. The media outlets must continue to create interest in this issue. We should come up with something to justify the team's efforts.
The diplomat: Don't worry. All the forces we are fighting against are being pressured in all respects. We will pressure not only on the Community, but also on the ruling party. International organizations will lend support to you. Our plot regarding anti-Western sentiments and cooperation with radical religious groups is working well. We must continue. Finally, I will ask you to perform another project; general amnesty is on our agenda. How the amnesty can be passed and what its timing should be is a delicate matter. This is a move that will take us to our target. Meanwhile, I'll wait for your proposals.
...This matter, … about the prep schools.
FETHULLAH GÜLEN: Yes, there is no problem. It may remain there. In my opinion, it should be kept there. EKREM, too, had asked if we should discuss the matter in the newspaper. But use soft language. If there are things you find harsh, you may act accordingly. May God give you well-being.
HİDAYET KARACA: I kiss your hands.
FETHULLAH GÜLEN: Do not mention it.
HİDAYET KARACA: My respects to you.
The same dialogue was found to be identical to a dialogue between actors in the “Dark Decision Board” scene of the 121st episode of the TV series “Şefkat Tepe,” which aired on Oct. 12, 2013.
- What do you say about the overlap of the dialogue between Hidayet Karaca and Fethullah Gülen and that of the TV series?
- Did you receive any instruction about the matters that would be covered in the TV serial “Şefkat Tepe”?
- Did you give any instructions concerning the issues that would be covered in the TV serial “Şefkat Tepe”?
Answer: The dialogue between Fethullah Gülen and Hidayet Karaca you read to me is taken, if I am not wrong, from a Twitter account. This is entirely unlawful. It is impossible to identify the owner of that Twitter account. Twitter does not disclose the identities of its users, even to public authorities. Still, I remember that the lawyers of the Samanyolu TV channel and Fethullah Gülen filed an official complaint about the above-mentioned dialogue.
After noting this unlawfulness, I must add that the section that relates to me was not in question when Cüneyt Özdemir interviewed me. I didn't have a conversation about prep schools with Fethullah Gülen. I read this tweet at that time. My name was not part of the dialogue. This is the first time I heard about that part about me. I didn't have such a conversation. The person who wiretapped this phone conversation and posted it on Twitter could wiretap the alleged conversation between me and Fethullah Gülen and post it on Twitter as well. The alleged conversation could be posted on the Twitter.
I didn't have such a phone conversation with Fethullah Gülen. I must note that unlawfully wiretapped phone conversations cannot be used as evidence. I didn't receive any instructions regarding the series aired on Samanyolu TV. I didn't give any instructions. I am not connected to the Samanyolu TV channel in any way.
Question: In the phone conversation between Fethullah Gülen and Hidayet Karaca, referring to the issue of the prep schools, Fethullah Gülen said: “Yes, there is no problem. It may remain there. In my opinion, it should be kept there. EKREM, too, had asked if we should discuss the matter in the newspaper. But use a soft language. If there are things you find harsh, you may act accordingly. May God give you well-being.”
- Did you have a conversation with Fethullah Gülen concerning coverage about the issue of the prep schools, as noted in the phone call?
- Did Fethullah Gülen give you any instructions to publish stories about the issue of the prep schools in the Zaman daily?
- Did you consult with Fethullah Gülen about publishing stories about the issue of the prep schools in the Zaman daily?
Answer: Fethullah Gülen didn't give me any instructions about publishing stories about the prep schools issue. I didn't have any conversation with Fethullah Gülen about this matter. I have no connection to the alleged conversation. There was no such conversation. I didn't have any conversation with Fethullah Gülen about prep schools. I didn't receive or give any instructions about publishing stories on the prep school issue. We didn't consult with Fethullah Gülen about publishing stories on the prep schools issue. Our editorial policy was our main guide.
Question: The prep schools issue was systematically covered by Zaman newspaper, where you act as the editor-in-chief, in its October 8-11 and 14, 2013, editions. What is the purpose of covering the prep schools issue in the newspaper repeatedly?
Answer: After I graduated from university, I worked at the prep schools for several years. I taught courses on Turkish language and literature. I believe young people can pass the university entrance exams easily if they attend prep schools and these institutions fill a gap in our national education system. Therefore, we covered the prep schools issue in a frank manner. I discussed this matter with the then prime minister [Erdoğan] and the education minister. As I believe prep schools are beneficial to education, I covered this issue in the paper. I didn't receive any instruction.
Question: On the issue dated Nov. 25, 2013 of Zaman newspaper, there was a news story titled “Open Letter to the Prime Minister” where you wrote a letter to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was the prime minister at that time and who is now the president. - Do you have any legal connection to any prep school? And if so, please explain.
-What is the reason for the newspaper bringing the issue of prep schools to the agenda?
Answer: This question bears the same content as the above-mentioned question and my answers to the previous question apply here. I don't have any link to any prep school. The prep schools issue had been discussed by all media outlets for months. I just wrote an open letter to the prime minister in my column.
Question: Do you know Hüseyin Gülerce, who was a former columnist for Zaman newspaper; Ahmet Şahin, a columnist for Zaman newspaper; and Nuh Gönültaş, a columnist for Bugün newspaper?
- Do you follow the articles and statements of Hüseyin Gülerce?
- Do you follow the articles and statements of Ahmet Şahin?
- Do you follow the articles and live broadcasts of Nuh Gönültaş?
Answer: I know Hüseyin Gülerce, Ahmet Şahin and Nuh Gönültaş as colleagues. I occasionally read their articles.
Question: Regarding the references to “Tahşiye” and “Rahle” in the “Shadowy Decision Board” of the 64th and 66th episodes of the TV serial “Tek Türkiye” aired by Samanyolu TV channel, the “Tahşiye” matter was covered in the news story titled, “Those who produce terrorist organizations are after another plot” in the Zaman newspaper on April 8, 2009, and Hüseyin Gülerce, a columnist at your newspaper, wrote a column on April 10, 2009. The following section was taken from this latter article: “They may invent something called “Tahşiye” in the future, may God forbid it. They may make their men infiltrate Muslims who read books for moral integrity. They may hang posters of the man who wrote those books (Bediüzzaman) in their homes.”
Likewise, Ahmet Şahin, another Zaman columnist, wrote the following in his column of April 15, 2009:
“You just saw them [al-Qaeda] establish another organization named ‘Tahşiye' and they call people who don't even own a needle terrorists through this organization.”
In an article penned by Bugün daily columnist Nuh Gönültaş on April 26, 2009, the issue was again referred to: “Continue to keep the madman of the homeland on the nation's agenda. One more thing, the group which we established for reactionaryism but was exposed before we used it, what was its name, Tahşiye or Tahşidat. Let it not be forgotten. Let's make a name change. Let's continue with our plans, definitely. What should be the name of this new religious fundamentalist organization, sir? You just say something like Rahle [a small table generally used for reading Quran]. It could be the name of a religious symbol.”
The fact that a news report was covered about the Tahşiye issue in Zaman daily on April 8, 2009 and that Zaman daily columnists Hüseyin Gülerce and Ahmet Şahin, as well as Bugün's columnist Nuh Gönültaş, covered Fethullah Gülen's speech and the events in the TV series in their columns, systematically trying to create a perception in the public and given the fact that you are the editor-in-chief of the daily and these articles will not be published in the daily without your knowledge and permission, it has been concluded that you also played an active role in the perception management. Have you taken part in such a plot?
Answer: I made a statement about this issue above. To summarize it again briefly, fellow Zaman editors of the paper's op-ed pages made an assessment of the articles in question and put them in the relevant pages. The columnists might have seen the issue [the Tahşiye issue] on the www.herkul.org website and examined it in their columns. This is something that took place completely according to their own will. It is out of the question for me to create a specific public perception in this way. Those articles are written by the columnists according to their own will. An instruction or interference from me is out of the question. In our paper, there are some columnists who write articles against our paper's general publication policy. It is out of the question for me to tell our columnists to write this or that. I did not participate in any alleged “perception management.” I did not have any knowledge of such an attempt either.
Question: Following Fethullah Gülen's speech on April 6, 2009, a news report was published by the daily, of which you are the editor-in-chief, in its April 8, 2009 edition with the headline, “Those Producing Terrorist Organizations After New Plot,” the Tahşiye and Rahle issues were covered by the Tek Türkiye TV series' 64th episode on April 9, 2009 and the 66th episode on April 23, 2009 in the “Shadowy Decision Board” with references to Tahşiye and Rahle.
Question: Following Fethullah Gülen's speech on April 6, 2009, a news report was published by the [Zaman] daily in its April 8, 2009 edition with the headline, “Those Producing Terrorist Organizations After New Plot.” The Tahşiye and Rahle issues were covered by the Tek Türkiye TV series' 64th episode on April 9, 2009 and the 66th episode on April 23, 2009 in the “Shadowy Decision Board” with references to Tahşiye and Rahle. Zaman daily columnist Hüseyin Gülerce in his article on April 10, 2009 dwelled on the Tahşiye issue. Zaman daily columnist Ahmet Şahin also dwelled on the Tahşiye issue in his article on April 15,2009. And Bugün daily columnist Nuh Gönültaş dwelled on the Tahşiye and Rahle issues in his article on April 29, 2009. It was discovered that a document prepared by the İstanbul Police Department's Intelligence Unit about the activities of the radical Tahşiye group was sent to the İstanbul Police Department's Anti-terrorism Unit and an investigation numbered 2009/1016 was launched into the radical Tahşiye group on May 5, 2009.
-Do you think the sequence of these developments is a coincidence?
-Do you have any information about this sequence of developments?
-Did you know beforehand that such an investigation would be launched?
Answer: Editors of our paper saw the discussion of the Tahşiye issue on www.herkul.org and they made a news story about it. Two of our columnists dwelled on this issue in their articles. I have no other information beyond this. This is the first time that I heard about the Tahşiye issue's being covered in a TV series and the launch of an investigation against it. I even heard about the word Tahşiye here for the first time from my lawyer.
Question: Do you know the person called Mehmet Doğan, who is the student of Hacı Hulusi Yahyagil, who is claimed to be the first student of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi? Please explain.
Answer: I don't know the Mehmet Doğan whom you are asking about.
Question: Do you think Mehmet Doğan and the person or people in his surroundings belonging to the Nur religious community in addition to the owners of the Tahşiye publication house that explain and publish Risale-i Nur books have connections with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization?
Answer: I don't know the person called Mehmet Doğan. I don't know which religious community he belongs to. Thus it is impossible for me to know whether they have any connections to a terrorist organization. It is impossible for me to have views about these people whom I don't know.
Question: Do you have any information about the ammunition seized in an operation dated Jan. 22, 2010 in a building numbering 20/9 called Dündar on Barbaros street in the Siyavuşpaşa neighborhood of Bahçelievler district of İstanbul?
Answer: I don't have any information about the ammunition which was claimed to have been seized in the building called Dündar.
Question: Do you know former police officers Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Ömer Köse, Yurt Atayün and Erol Demirhan in person, whom there are detention warrants for, including yourself?
Answer: I don't know any of the people you mentioned above in person. I saw these people on TV following the events concerning them.
Question: What is the reason for the media coverage for days about former police officers Ömer Köse, Yurt Atayün and many other people, most of whom are police officers who were detained and later arrested in an investigation numbered 2014/41637 on July 22, 2014 by the Zaman daily where you serve as editor-in-chief?
-Do you have any family ties with those detained or arrested people?
-What is the reason for your daily's coverage of these people more extensively than other dailies and with distortion that will influence the course of a fair trial?
Answer: As I mentioned above, I don't know these people in person. The news reports about them did not aim to influence the course of a fair trial. It is also out of the question for us to distort events. They were published because they were newsworthy developments.
Question: It is concluded that the investigation numbered 2009/1016 into the “radical Tahşiye group” or the “pro-al-Qaeda Mehmet Doğan group” was launched by the anti-terrorism unit as part of a series of developments which took place in the hierarchy of an organization after an instruction was given by Fethullah Gülen through the www.herkul.org website, the issue was was covered in news reports and columns in Gülen-affiliated dailies and with a reference of a terrorist organization in a TV series on the Samanyolu TV channel belonging to the same group and that all these events and even the name change of the group were covered in dailies and on TV in a parallel way.
-Did you take part in such an organized work?
-Do you have any connections with such an organization?
Answer: I don't accept the allegations mentioned above concerning efforts aimed at creating a certain public perception in order to ensure the launch of an investigation against a terrorist group called Tahşiye. I don't have any knowledge or connection to such an effort. There is nothing other than two columns and one news report about this group in my daily where I serve as editor-in-chief. The news report and columns are not directly related to me. Neither Ahmet Şahin nor Hüseyin Gülerce said anything about me giving them any instructions.
… No such thing took place. It is impossible for me to know why the investigation was launched or who launched it. It is also out of the question for our paper to cover events in parallel to what appears on Samanyolu TV. There is no connection between the two. There is definitely no such organization.
Question: Is there anything that you want to add to your testimony?
Answer: When I heard that there is an investigation against me, I went to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to ask about the accuracy of the claims. I was told in paper that there is no investigation about me. One day after this, I learned that there is a detention warrant for me. Then, I was detained. I have been under police custody for four days. I was wondering what accusations would be directed at me but from the questions asked and the documents shown, I have concluded that I should not have been taken into custody.
This is a saddening incident for my country because I have been a journalist for 20 years. I am journalist who is a permanent holder of the yellow press card. I am a member of World Association of Newspapers [WAN], World Editors Forum [WEF] and a member of the Beşiktaş Sports Club congress. For many years, I served as an executive board member of the Press Council and co-chairperson of the Media Association. I am a person who lives in front of the very eyes of society. I find it saddening that so much trouble has been given to us for two columns and one news report. I did not commit any offense. I don't have any links with any [illegal] organization. I am not a member of the organization which is claimed to exist, either. I am seeking my release.
Published on Today's Zaman, 19 December 2014, Friday