June 14, 2015

Hizmet movement theft case in tatters as suspect confesses to giving false testimony

A court case incriminating the faith-based Hizmet movement has all but collapsed after a police officer appearing as a witness in court admitted to providing false testimony in order to keep his position on the police force.

The investigation into the theft of two vehicles belonging to the Ankara Police Department's Organized Crime Unit was instigated by Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun. The case was aimed at the “parallel structure,” a derogatory term devised by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his associates within the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to denigrate members of the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.

Erdoğan and the AK Party government launched a self-declared war against the Hizmet movement, inspired by the ideas of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, after a corruption probe went public on Dec. 17, 2013, incriminating senior members of the government, sons of three now-former ministers and government-affiliated figures, as well as family members of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan. Erdoğan accused the Hizmet movement of being behind the probe and attempting to overthrow his government; the movement has denied the allegations.

However, the main suspect in the theft case, police officer Seyit Akşit, confessed at the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court that he was promised that he would keep his position on the police force and receive immunity from prosecution in return for false testimony against the Hizmet movement. Akşit added that the issue had nothing to do with the so-called parallel structure.

Akşit had said when he was first detained for the theft that the head of the Organized Crime Unit of the Ankara Police, Erdinç Elpe, and his deputy, Murat Çelik, had deceived him and presented him with promises they could not keep in return for his testimony linking the thefts to members of the Hizmet movement.

Akşit's lawyer said it was impossible for a man like Akşit to be a member of the so-called parallel organization, as the Hizmet movement would not allow a man known for drinking alcohol excessively, going to nightclubs and frequenting brothels into their fold.

Another defendant, police officer İbrahim Şimşek, was asked in court how an organization that had no formal, legal definition could be brought to trial. Stressing that an “imaginary organization” was being tried, Şimşek said the prosecution had no tangible evidence, and that all they had was the testimony from Akşit and mobile phone records.

Pointing out that he was questioned as to why he made phone calls to friends whom he had known since college, Şimşek said that his phone records showed no proof that he had done anything unlawful.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 14 June 2015, Sunday