December 22, 2014

Red notice for Gülen would allow world to learn of Turkey’s judicial disgrace

Ahmet Gündel*

As part of an investigation launched on Dec. 14 by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against figures affiliated with the faith-based Hizmet movement, the prosecutor in question petitioned the İstanbul 1st Penal Court of Peace and asked it to issue an arrest warrant for Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who resides in the US state of Pennsylvania with permanent resident status. The prosecutor's request was approved and the court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen.

The petition submitted by the prosecutor to the court claims that “there is tangible evidence showing that Gülen is the founder of an armed terrorist organization and he was involved in crimes of defamation and restricting a person's freedom.” The prosecutor's request was approved by the judge and the warrant was issued on the basis of the abovementioned charges directed at him. It is understood that the issuing of an arrest warrant for the Islamic scholar will be followed by a process aimed at his deportation from the US to Turkey. However, when the US receives such a request for Gülen's deportation, will it fulfill it?

In line with an agreement signed between Turkey and the US in 1980 concerning the extradition of criminals, Turkey could request the deportation of Gülen from the US. The extradition request, if made by Turkey in line with the relevant procedures, will eventually be referred to the local court where Gülen resides by the American authorities, and the court will be asked to make a judgment.

The first issues that will be examined by the court is whether the deportation is possible based on the charges of establishing an armed terrorist organization and the other charges, in line with the 1980 agreement, whether the investigation into the scholar is based on concrete evidence and whether the suspect has anything to do with the charges he faces.

In accordance with the 1980 agreement, extradition of individuals between the two countries for political crimes does not seem possible. There is no doubt that the extradition request for Gülen will be regarded within the framework of political crimes considering the tension between the Turkish government and the Hizmet movement, which was inspired by Gülen, not to mention the movement's opposition to the government in Turkey. When it comes to the issue of whether there is tangible evidence against an individual in the investigation launched into him, there is a need to take into account whether the investigation was carried out in line with the law. The steps taken in the investigation are as follows:

1. The actual reason for the launch of the investigation is a speech of Gülen's which was broadcast on a website on April 6, 2009. When this speech is carefully read, Gülen says in brief and warns: “Some shadowy forces in the country could invent groups named Tahşiye [Annotators], place weapons in places belonging to innocent people and then raise fears by saying, ‘Religious fundamentalists are taking up arms,' and label innocent individuals as terrorists.” It is still fresh in the people's mind that the Action Plan to Fight Reactionaryism and other documents emerged two months after this speech revealing plans to make it appear as if the Hizmet movement is an armed terrorist organization. Despite its content, this speech is being presented as a conspiracy against the Tahşiye group.

2. After this happened, certain newspaper columns briefly talk about the Tahşiye issue and the group is mentioned in a TV series.

3. A police search was carried out in early 2010 at the addresses of individuals affiliated with the Tahşiye group and resulted in the seizure of explosives in a plastic bag. When the gloves of one police officer involved in the search tore, the police officer, who was cautious of leaving his fingerprints on the bag, recorded this incident on paper and the incident is also recorded by a police camera.

4. An investigation is later launched into the police officers making the search, but the prosecutor decided that there was no legal ground to indict them.

5. After more than five years had passed since this incident, one of the individuals who stood trial as part of the Tahşiye case launched a criminal complaint on May 16 of this year against individuals based on Gülen's speech in 2009 and the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation which became public on Dec. 14.

6. The prosecutor overseeing the investigation detained many people as part of the investigation and kept them in police custody up until the maximum time limit stated by law before referring some of them to a court for arrest.

7. The penal judge of peace sent many people to prison, including Samanyolu TV network's general manager, Hidayet Karaca.

8. Confidentiality was imposed on the investigation in line with a request from the prosecutor, and lawyers of the suspects were prevented from receiving a copy of the investigation file.

Although the court imposed confidentiality on the investigation, it is easy to understand the content of the investigation looking at the questions directed at the suspects. The investigation is based on the text of the speech Gülen made in which he talks about the Tahşiye group, one paragraph from two newspaper columnists' articles -- each on the same issue -- one news story about Tahşiye, a CD of an episode of the “Tek Türkiye” TV series broadcast on Samanyolu TV and a phone conversation which allegedly took place between Karaca and Gülen in which they talked about the covering of the Tahşiye issue in the TV series in question. The text of this conversation was taken from social media and included in the investigation file. In addition, it is understood that the investigation into the Tahşiye group and trial dossier were also included in the Dec. 14 investigation dossier. This is all about the investigation file on which confidentiality was imposed. I wonder why confidentiality was imposed on an investigation dossier which is based completely on texts from a speech and articles from five years ago, and why individuals were kept under police custody under harsh circumstances for approximately five days.

9. Apart from the speech texts and articles, there is no other tangible evidence in the investigation dossier. The text of the phone conversation which allegedly took place between Karaca and Gülen was taken from the social media and is illegitimate evidence. When these phone conversations were posted online, Karaca's lawyers had access bans imposed on the websites publishing the conversations and those publishing them were convicted by the courts.

The phone conversation, which has no legal value and whose illegitimacy as evidence was approved by the courts (even if it were legitimate evidence, there is no criminal offense in it), was unfortunately included in the investigation dossier by the prosecutor. The judge based Karaca's arrest on this conversation.

10. The prosecutor asked questions such as, “Why did you give extensive coverage in your paper to the issue of the closure of university prep schools?” during the interrogation of the suspects.

11. Another important point is the fact that the suspects, who face charges of establishing an armed terrorist organization and some of whom were arrested over this charge, were not asked any significant questions regarding their alleged involvement in terrorism. Nearly all of the questions were about the speech, articles or the phone conversation. However, the charge of establishing an armed terrorist organization and involvement in terrorist activities are very serious accusations. Since Gülen and other suspects are accused of establishing an armed terrorist organization and being a member of a terrorist organization, it would have been necessary for the prosecutors and the judge who ruled for the arrest of some suspects to present solid evidence such as the weapons or explosives used by this terrorist organization and the armed actions of Gülen and other suspects to substantiate these charges.

It is clear that Gülen and other suspects who are accused of establishing an armed terrorist organization and being members of it are being accused based on a speech Gülen made and two paragraphs from two newspaper columns.

12. Can one think that Gülen's extradition to Turkey by a court in the US, which is undoubtedly a state of law, based on an investigation which has no solid evidence and is filled with many rights violations, would happen? To the contrary, when they see the documents related to the extradition request, American politicians, bureaucrats and judges will see the situation of the current judicial system in Turkey and how relations between the government and the judiciary are intertwined with their own eyes, and they will be appalled by this. The entire world will know of our judicial disgrace by our own hands.

*Former public prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Published on Today's Zaman, 22 December 2014, Monday