December 30, 2014

Summary of proceedings reveals plot against media

The summary of proceedings of the recent police operation conducted to silence free media demonstrates that it was a plot targeting the Zaman daily and the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group.

Almost all of the information in the summary of proceedings prepared by the police as part of the operation in which the top executives of the two media outlets were detained was in a report published by the pro-government Sabah daily almost nine months ago.

A letter of complaint that is very similar in content to the report in the daily was sent via e-mail to the İstanbul Police Department on May 16, 2014, nearly two months after the publication of the report.

The person who submitted the complaint, Mehmet Nuri Turan, is a suspected member of the radical Islamist group Tahşiyeciler (Annotators), which is known to support al-Qaeda's global jihadist ideology.

Based on the e-mail complaint sent by Turan, who owns a publishing house called Tahşiye (Annotation), Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, general manager of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, were taken into custody by the police on Dec. 14, along with several others.

Both of the media executives were accused of being part of a terrorist organization and of conspiring against the al-Qaeda-linked group Tahşiyeciler, whose leader Mehmet Doğan was detained for 17 months after being arrested in early 2010 and later released pending trial. Doğan recently told CNN Türk that he “loves Osama bin Laden,” al-Qaeda's late leader.

While Zaman's Dumanlı was subsequently released pending trial, Karaca was arrested, and the operation was harshly criticized by opposition parties as well as media organizations at home and abroad as an attempt to intimidate free media.

The news report dated March 23, 2014, prepared by the information department of the Sabah daily, says: “Immediately after a statement by [Fethullah] Gülen [about the Tahşiyeciler group that was released on the website], Tahşiyeciler were targeted in a column by Nuh Gönültaş in the Bugün daily and then in the ‘Tek Türkiye' [One Turkey] television series on the Samanyolu channel.”

“Following a period of black propaganda about the group, the İstanbul Police Department wiretapped the telephones of leading members of Tahşiyeciler, including Mehmet Doğan. An [police] operation was carried out against Tahşiyeciler on Jan. 21, 2010.”

Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar whose teachings inspire the Hizmet movement, a civil society organization. The faith-based Hizmet movement promotes interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems through peaceful means throughout the world.

The Zaman daily and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group are both affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which has been accused of attempting to oust the government through sweeping government graft probes that went public in December of last year and implicated numerous high-profile individuals. The government is yet to provide solid evidence of its claims.

The letter Turan sent to the police on May 16 of this year, almost two months after the publication of the news report in the daily, said: “I was the owner of Tahşiye publishing house. Mr. Fethullah Gülen uttered remarks [...] released [in a video] on the website on April 6, 2009 that gave the impression that the publishing house is linked with al-Qaeda. Then, all the media reported on this speech as a news item. A letter of notice with no signature on it was sent on April 11, 2009, to the İstanbul Police Department. The investigation [of Tahşiyeciler] was launched based on this.”

It is clear that the complaint is very similar in its content to the Sabah report. Following the complaint, police took no action for more than five months. It was on Oct. 16 of this year that the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office instructed that an investigation be launched to examine the issue. That is, some seven months after the news report appeared in the Sabah daily in late March.

The accusations that were the basis for the Dec.14 police coup operation against the media were first published as a news report in the daily, and then were transmitted to the police as a complaint. And the plot was completed with the steps taken by the prosecutor's office.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç also recently revealed that the operation was launched after Doğan was asked by the government if he had any complaint about the Hizmet movement.

The details of the indictment against Tahşiyeciler expose how baseless the government case is against the dozens of people -- including prominent journalists, producers, directors, scriptwriters and former police officers -- who were detained after Turan filed a complaint against them for defaming the militant group Tahşiyeciler.

Nazmi Ardıç, former police chief of the Organized Crime Unit of the İstanbul Police Department, said earlier that the police moved in on the Tahşiyeciler group when intelligence suggested that their members had started to communicate with al-Qaeda elements in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was preparing to send Turkish citizens to join them for armed training.

He said police surveillance revealed that the group's leader, Mehmet Doğan, sought to implement al-Qaeda's ideology, telling his followers to join Osama bin Laden's army in Afghanistan and urging them to assassinate the country's political and religious leaders.

During the operation targeting the group on Jan. 22, 2010, police raided the homes and offices of 112 people across Turkey and discovered three hand grenades, one smoke bomb, seven handguns, 18 hunting rifles, electronic parts for explosives, knives and a large cache of ammunition.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 December 2014, Monday