March 4, 2015

EP vice president says "parallel state" a conspiracy theory for many

The vice president of the European Parliament (EP) has said that the theory of a "parallel state," which has been forcefully endorsed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in the wake of corruption charges, is considered by many in Brussels to be a conspiracy theory.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a German Liberal member of the EP and vice president responsible for democracy and human rights, stressed that he personally did not see "parallel state" theories as "credible." Speaking on the Europe Desk program aired on Samanyolu Haber TV, Lambsdorff said the government's insistence that there is a parallel structure "did not go well in Brussels."

The AK Party government hastily crafted a theory about a so-called parallel state in the wake of a corruption scandal that broke on Dec. 17, 2013 in order to accuse the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, of masterminding corruption investigations targeting key members of the government. While the movement vehemently denies the accusations, the government's theory has not been successful in acquiring support outside of Turkey.

"We have people here in Brussels who read Turkish, speak Turkish, understand Turkey rather well and travel to the country quite regularly. None of them really thinks there is this big parallel state structure. There used to be a parallel state in Turkey, we should not forget that. That was the army. There is one thing that the AK Party government has really achieved for Turks, and that is to put the army back to its barracks where it belongs. It should not try to create a new parallel state just to have somebody to fight against. I think the theory is not really plausible," said the German MEP.

Lambsdorff is also his group's shadow rapporteur on Turkey and a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee. Commenting on the arrest of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca on allegations of leading a terrorist organization, Lambsdorff said he did not think the allegations were reasonable "at all" and characterized Karaca's arrest as "absolutely unacceptable."

"I am not part of the Hizmet movement. It would be very surprising if I were, given that I am not even a Muslim. But the Hizmet movement has legal outlets. It has legal media outlets, it has legal organizations, schools. These are legal entities, and they must be treated legally regardless of the affiliation with whatever movement. As far as the media is concerned, the same line applies. You cannot treat a specific media outlet and its boss as an outcast or as a criminal just because that media outlet writes things you don't like. I think that is absolutely unacceptable and sheds a very negative light on the prospects of Turkey's membership," he said.

When asked about his assessment of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's government, Lambsdorff said he was not impressed and that Turkey was still going in the opposite direction of the EU.

"I think we have not seen an improvement in what I would call the situation in the civil liberties. I think the situation of media has not improved. To the contrary, self-censorship and pressure are the issues that we are really facing in Turkey. I think the situation regarding the Kurds is still very fragile, very unclear where it is going. There were very positive developments at the beginning of the AK Party government. We would like see that continue, but now what we see is rather opposite," Lambsdorff said.

Lambsdorff was asked for his opinion about the comparisons made in the pro-government media between Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim scholar living in self-exile in the US, and Adolf Hitler. The EP vice president said the comparison was "very cheap" and "very inappropriate." Pro-government media claimed had the Dec. 17 "coup" been successful, Gülen would return to Turkey as "führer."

Published on Today's Zaman, 04 March 2015, Wednesday