May 14, 2015

Round-the-clock police raid on business blasted as intimidation

A police search conducted in a shop in Manisa, in which anti-terrorism units also took part, has been strongly condemned by members of opposition parties, with the search having lasted more than 24 hours being described as intimidation by the government.

“To intimidate a shop owner, with pressure being put on them because of their dissenting views, clearly indicates that the state is no longer the state of the people,” Oktay Vural, parliamentary group deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), told the Cihan news agency on Thursday.

Police began their search of the shop of Şerif Nalçakan, who has been in business for 25 years, at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and ended shortly after midday on Thursday.

A book on the life of Prophet Mohammed and another titled “A Day with Prophet Mohammed” as well as the magazine Sızıntı were put down as crime elements in the police report.

Nalçakan said that the 24-hour-plus police search is nothing else but persecution.

Also on Wednesday, seven businesses, including a media distribution office, were raided by the police in the western province of Manisa, the fourth such operation in the province that targeted institutions believed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement, also called Hizmet.

The raids targeted Cihan Medya Dağıtım A.Ş., which distributes the Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies.

Such raids are aimed at discrediting the Gülen movement, Özgür Özel, Manisa deputy of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told the Cihan news agency, describing the raids as unlawful.

Civil society organizations and charity groups in other parts of the country have also been raided by police as they are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, which came under attack from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his associates within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) after they accused it of instigating a corruption probe that went public in Dec. 17, 2013.

Blasting the police raid as a manifestation of using government force as a tool for intimidation, the MHP's Vural said the people must get rid of the government in the upcoming general elections.

Nalçakan, who noted such a raid by the police would serve to shake people's confidence in one another and the state, dismissed allegations of being part of a terrorist organization or plotting to overthrow the constitutional order.

He told the Cihan news agency that the only things that were put down on the police records following the search were books about Prophet Mohammed, a magazine and a cashbook.

Those who closely follow what's happening believe that such raids are part of efforts to discredit the Gülen movement, which is inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar, Nalçakan added.

Noting that he is a member of an association that helps students from underprivileged families catch up on their classes by offering them a place to study, Nalçakan said: “This is what we are accused of, and I do not apologize for being accused of that.”

In another move aimed at intimidation towards the Gülen movement, the Başakşehir branch of the Sefaköy Youth Association, established to support the education of young people and help them avoid harmful habits, has been closed down by the police on the grounds that free food and drinks are offered to people there.

Police teams that arrived at the Başakşehir branch of the association at midday on Wednesday said there were some complaints about the branch being involved in illegal activities, while association officials denied the claims.

The deputy head of the Başakşehir branch of Sefaköy Youth Association, Yakup Taşkın, said the association's branch was sealed off illegally.

“We offered some services to young people as part of our educational activities. Although we do no illegal work, our branch has been closed illegally. The reason is our offering tea, soup and meals to the children coming here for free,” he said, noting that they will take legal action concerning the closure decision.

Children and young people who used to come to the association regularly slammed the police's shutting down the association in Başakşehir. Some of them said they use the association to be involved in social activities like reading books, playing computer games and studying. They said they are offered tea and meals there.

The operations are widely believed to be an act of retribution by Erdoğan's administration for the corruption investigation.

The businesses are accused of financing the “parallel structure,” a derogatory term coined by President Erdoğan and his associates to refer to sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 May 2015, Thursday