Nurullah Albayrak, the legal representative of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, in a written statement on Wednesday spoke out against a front-page story in the pro-government Star daily that published the photos of 160 educators at Turkish schools overseas that are affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, saying the daily is breaking the law and violating those individuals' human rights by depicting innocent people as criminals.
The Star daily, on its front page on Wednesday, published the photos of 106 people and claimed that they are “world imams in 106 countries,” implying they are there as representatives of the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, and inspired by the views of Gülen.
The daily published the story after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a press conference held on his plane on his way to Colombia on Sunday: “The world imams [of the Gülen movement] will be announced soon. Let's see what the reaction from the world will be.”
Since a major corruption scandal erupted on Dec. 17, 2013 implicating the inner circles of Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Erdoğan has accused sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those in the state bureaucracy, of masterminding the corruption probe in an attempt to overthrow the AK Party government. Erdoğan claims that the Turkish schools defame the AK Party government and Turkey, contrary to statements made before the corruption scandal saying that the schools promote Turkey and the Turkish language.
Despite repeatedly accusing the movement of being behind any alleged plot on Turkey's political scene, Erdoğan has so far failed to present any strong evidence and has not brought the matters to court, Albayrak stated. Strongly denying the accusations, Albayrak said Erdoğan's claims against Gülen are groundless and do not reflect reality.
Gülen's lawyer stated that the Star daily, upon the instructions of Erdoğan, has violated laws and people's personal rights by targeting Gülen and the 106 education workers to create a perception that these people are criminals.
Albayrak said those who were depicted as “Gülen's world imams” are mostly working as volunteer administrators in Turkish schools in these 106 countries and Star gave no evidence that they have been involved in any crime.
According to the lawyer, the photos that were released by Star were taken from official documents and passports, which is private information, and releasing them is a crime under the Constitution and the law.
In the statement, Albayrak said Turkish schools, which operate in some 160 countries in the world and are supported by Gülen, are established based on the laws of those countries.
The Turkish volunteers, who have never been involved in any crime in their lives and are only focused on educational goals, have been discriminated against by the Star daily, Albayrak added. These individuals, inspired by Gülen's humanitarian, civil and moral teachings, have traveled to many countries in remote parts of the world to open educational institutions to promote world peace, Albayrak said.
Published on Today's Zaman, 12 February 2015, Thursday