May 7, 2015

Manisa opposition party branches condemn police raids against CSOs

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Felicity Party (SP) Manisa branch chairmen have strongly criticized police raids of three “reading rooms” for children from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as 11 civil society organizations (CSOs) over the past week.

Raids were conducted on the Gazi Hacı Nusrettin Kara Reading Room and Education Center, the Horozköy Reading and Education Association and the Altıntaş Reading and Education Association. All are affiliates of the Ufuk Reading Education Culture and Cooperation Association, and all have been targeted because of their alleged links to the Gülen movement, popularly known as Hizmet, a faith-based grassroots initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The raids are believed to mark the resumption of a government-led retribution campaign against dissenting segments of society, including the Gülen movement.

The Manisa branch of aid organization Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anyone There) was also targeted in the operation on Tuesday, as were other CSOs such as the Feza Educational and Cultural Foundation, the Health and Education Association, the Social Aid Association, the Moris Şinasi International Children's Health Association, the Manisa Public Education and Teaching Association, the Health and Social Assistance Association and the Aviation Community Sports Association.

CHP Manisa provincial chairman Mustafa Ada told Today's Zaman on Thursday that these police raids of CSOs in Manisa are part of the authoritarian policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ambition to shape society according to his will. Recalling the arrest of two judges in İstanbul who ruled for the release of Samanyolu TV Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers on April 25, Ada underlined that the raid shows the state of the judiciary, which is under strong pressure from the government.

Criticizing a statement by Manisa Police Chief Tayfur Erdal Ceren last week justifying the initial raids, Ada said that Ceren has attempted to avoid triggering the government's anger. In a statement last week, Ceren said those who provide financial assistance to the CSOs must understand that they are providing assistance to terrorist groups. However, Ceren's remarks have attracted criticism due to the complete absence of evidence that the Gülen movement has links to terrorists.

MHP Manisa branch head Tanju Balatlı also told Today's Zaman that everyone is equal before the law and that the principle of innocent until proven guilty should not be violated unless there is strong evidence of a crime. “These strong accusations lacking concrete evidence besmirch the accused's reputation in society, which is not acceptable,” Balatlı said. Reacting against Ceren's statements, Balatlı said that a civil servant should never talk about a case being heard by a court.

Chairman of the SP Manisa branch Metin Bulduk also reacted to the police raids and Ceren's statement, saying the recent developments in the city are not right and that Ceren is not in a position to put the blame on the CSOs.

Published on Today's Zaman, 07 May 2015, Thursday