A new plan attempting to designate the Gülen movement -- also known as Hizmet -- as a terrorist organization has been put into practice following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinting that the movement might be behind the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, several lawyers linked to the case have said.
The recent testimony of the hitman who killed Dink, Ogün Samast, has reportedly been the first step to serve the intended goal by Erdoğan to smear the Hizmet movement.
Speaking with Today's Zaman regarding the plot against Hizmet, Hüseyin Ataol, a lawyer representing a police chief over accusations of negligence relating to the Dink murder, stressed that an obvious attempt is underway to portray Hizmet as a terrorist organization.
"In order to designate a group as terrorist, an armed attack is a prerequisite and the Dink murder will offer the missing link for those who are engaged in the plot against Hizmet. Otherwise, their efforts to convince the people that Hizmet is a terrorist group will yield no result. They, along with the pro-government media, are trying to absolve the real perpetrators," Ataol noted.
The lawyer said the Dink murder has been chosen as one of many incidents to defame Hizmet as a preparation to designate the movement as an armed terrorist organization, which President Erdoğan desires and has allegedly instructed the judiciary.
The role of the pro-government media, such as the Sabah, Akşam, Yeni Şafak and Takvim dailies, in the plot against the movement is considerable, as Erdoğan's spin-doctors have produced fabricated reports on a daily basis to create the perception that the movement has engaged in illegal acts.
In order to put the plan to eliminate Hizmet into action by creating a connection with the killing of Dink, an application by Dink's family made in 2008 requesting an investigation into police chiefs who are considered to have acted negligently in relation to the killing was revived in 2014 to go after Hizmet.
Through the investigation, those police chiefs, Ramazan Akyürek and Ali Fuat Yılmazer, along with several police officers who informed the İstanbul Police Department and other related departments on the possibility of the killing of Dink by an ultra-nationalist group, as official correspondences and reports also confirmed, were put in jail and chosen as scapegoats to create the required link to designate Hizmet as a terrorist group.
However, as Akyürek, who was the head of the Trabzon Police intelligence department at the time of killing, sent a note warning both the National Police Department's intelligence unit and the National Police Department in 2006 that there was going to be an attempted assassination of Dink, he was arrested on charges of "causing death by negligence."
However, Engin Dinç, who headed the intelligence unit in Trabzon at the time of Dink's murder and now serves as the head of the National Police Department's intelligence unit, has even been asked to testify in order to reveal the chain of negligence that resulted in Dink's death. This double standard upset the Dink family as the lawyer representing the family applied to the court to request Dinç to be compelled to testify over the issue.
Akyürek, who passed on the information concerning a possible assault on Dink to the required departments, is now in prison, but those police chiefs who served in İstanbul and were informed of the possibility of Dink's murder failed to investigate the matter.
The two police chiefs, Akyürek and Yılmazer, who was former İstanbul Police Department Intelligence Bureau chief, are accused of being members of an armed terrorist organization, which may later be named as Hizmet.
Seven years after the murder, Samast suddenly decided to testify as a witness on Dec. 5, 2014, to Prosecutor Yusuf Hakkı Doğan. His latest testimony differs from what he said in 2010. Most recently he claimed that while at the house of Erhan Tuncel, an informant for the Trabzon Police Department who was accused of initiating efforts to have Dink murdered, he overheard a conversation between two people talking about Akyürek and Yılmazer.
Samast said that when he asked Yasin Hayal -- another suspect in the case who was sentenced to life in prison for inciting Samast to commit the murder -- about the names he overheard, he was told that Tuncel knew these people and that they were behind the plot to kill Dink. The testimony contradicts Samast's 2010 deposition that led to his conviction. He had earlier claimed that he did not know Tuncel and that Hayal was acting as a liaison with Tuncel.
Also, three police officials -- Ercan Demir, Özkan Mumcu and Muhittin Zenit -- said in their testimonies that Dinç was the highest authority at the Trabzon Police Department's intelligence unit. Demir said during his testimony, “The authority to inform provincial police departments about suspects or conduct operations against suspects belonged to Engin [Dinç].”
After the country's worst corruption scandal became public on Dec. 17, 2013, which implicated Erdoğan who was prime minister at that time and his family, Erdoğan pointed to the Hizmet movement and accused it of plotting against his government via the graft scandal -- a baseless accusation.
However, Erdoğan vowed to carry out a witch-hunt against members of Hizmet after the revelation of the graft scandal and mobilized the government and judiciary against the movement on the basis of fabricated evidence linking Hizmet with various political murders and illegal acts of which, in fact, government-related cliques were the real perpetrators.
Erdoğan and pro-gov't media main actors of plot against Hizmet
Pro-government media outlets, such as the Sabah daily, used Samast's testimony to report on an alleged link between Dink's murder and Hizmet.
Lawyer Ataol emphasized that the current political sphere is very convenient, in the light of Erdoğan's and the government's attempts to portray Hizmet as a terrorist group, adding that "the Ergenekon organization [an armed terrorist group according to Turkish law under a court's decision] and the government is in collaboration to eliminate Hizmet by [linking the murder with it]. It is known that Ergenekon has a key role in the killing. Portraying Hizmet as being responsible for the murder will also contribute to absolve members of Ergenekon of the accusations of bringing down the government. The government and Ergenekon have reconciled with each other."
Adnan Şeker, a lawyer representing Akyürek, also noted that his client did what his position required in order to prevent Dink from being assassinated by sending a warning to the heads of all provinces' intelligence units, in line with tip-offs by intelligence agents, of planned attacks on the country's Armenian citizens, as well as on Dink.
"In the light of this information, no one can claim negligence by Akyürek linked to Dink's murder. Furthermore, despite Akyürek's warnings, neither a bodyguard nor any kind of protection was given to Dink. Plus, Dink was invited by several high-ranking İstanbul intelligence chiefs in İstanbul and warned not to write about the threats against him. Akyürek's entire warnings were ignored.
“Samast's changed testimony is full of contradictions when compared to his previous one. It is obvious that he was instructed [to do this] and a text of the testimony was delivered to him to accuse these police chiefs of being members of a terrorist organization, thus clearing the way to declare the Hizmet movement as terrorist,” Şeker added.
He underlined that Erdoğan is the main figure behind the plot against Hizmet and went on to say: "The day after Akyürek was arrested, Erdoğan told a group of journalists that instead of negligence [by officials], a deliberate attempt to murder Dink is in question. These words confirm that Erdoğan is the one who has orchestrated the investigation of the killing. How can a prosecutor make an independent decision following Erdoğan's comments aiming to manage the probe in accordance with his view? Through the subordinated judiciary, Erdoğan is targeting persons or groups."
Published on Today's Zaman, 13 March 2015, Friday