February 26, 2015

The plot: Arrest warrant against Gülen rife with unlawfulness

Another arrest warrant has been issued against Fethullah Gülen -- a well-respected Turkish Islamic scholar -- although a warrant had already been issued on charges connected to a soap opera and his sermons online.

The second arrest warrant was delivered without going through standard legal procedures. It relies on the indictment that implicated several police officers who had conducted the investigation into Tawhid-Salam (Jerusalem Army), an Iranian-backed terrorist organization. The indictment in question includes a number of unfounded charges and like the previous one, targets the media. Soap opera dialogue, sermons posted on the Internet, news reports, columns and posts on Twitter are listed as criminal evidence.

The first crackdown on the police officers who conducted the investigation into Tawhid-Salam -- referred to as a "terrorist organization" in a number of Court of Cassation decisions -- came on July 22, 2014. But at that time, the police officers weren't charged with "establishing a terrorist organization" or "attempting to overthrow the government," and most were later released. However, seven months later, they were once again detained. In the second crackdown, Prosecutor İrfan Fidan changed the charges against the police officers, adding the allegations of "establishing a terrorist organization" and "attempting to overthrow the government." It is interesting to note that the charges revised by Fidan are similar to those used in the operations against several journalists, soap opera actors, directors and scriptwriters as well as the police officers who had undertaken the crackdown on an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization called Tahşiye (roughly translated as Annotators). The summary of proceedings in the investigation was cited as the basis for the arrest warrant issued against Gülen. It attributes special meaning to certain words and phrases singled out from various sermons by Gülen, which are regularly posted on herkul.org. Efforts have also been made to establish a connection between certain words in these sermons and the use of the same words in a soap opera aired on Samanyolu TV.

The summary of proceedings refers to Tawhid-Salam as a "so-called terrorist organization" although the Court of Cassation has definitively defined it as such, but on the other hand, describes the Gülen movement as a "terrorist organization" despite there being no court decision justifying this description.

Press and social media targeted

The press is also targeted in the summary of proceedings. Soap opera dialogues and columns are quoted as containing incriminating content. Columns and news stories penned by Amberin Zaman, Gültekin Avcı, Emre Uslu, Mehmet Baransu and others are presented as evidence. The interview Amberin Zaman had with Saleh Muslim, leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which was published in the Taraf daily newspaper, is also specifically mentioned. The news reports by the Zaman and Taraf daily newspapers regarding semi-trailer trucks that had been searched by prosecutors accompanied by gendarmerie in Adana and found to contain weapons, were specifically referenced. However, a brief search reveals that similar news stories were reported by numerous media outlets.

Likewise, posts on social media lead to allegations of criminal conduct. Certain tweets and columns by Emre Uslu, a journalist and academic, are used as grounds for the charges. For instance, the following tweet by Uslu was considered to contain incriminating content: "Soon, good things will happen. This is what I tell you. Just as it becomes sunny and a magnificent stillness settles in after a strong storm, it will be like this." The summary also refers to certain columns and tweets as reprehensible.

Manufacturing a terrorist organization out of a soap opera

The summary attempts to market the use of certain words that appeared in Gülen's sermons in a soap opera aired on Samanyolu TV as a crime. In this regard, the summary of proceedings employs the same method used in the one against the police officers who conducted the investigation into Tahşiye. Like its Tahşiye counterpart, it seeks to build a terrorist organization out of a soap opera script.

The summary of proceedings alleges that certain people with parliamentary immunity were wiretapped, but does not refer to any court order or prosecutor's demand for such wiretapping. It further quotes the phone conversations between the suspects and individuals with parliamentary immunity that cannot be wiretapped. This is marketed as the suspects having wiretapped the prime minister and ministers.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 February 2015, Thursday