June 25, 2015

Judge refers to controversial political document in arrest of police chiefs

A judge in Turkey has referred to a political document in his reasoned opinion as the basis of his decision for the arrest of four police chiefs who were detained based on a complaint from a member of an Al-Qaeda-linked group.

In a government-orchestrated investigation, Judge Recep Uyanık of the İstanbul 5th Penal Court of Peace highlighted a political document called the National Security Strategy Concept Paper (MGSB), often referred to as the "Red Book," as a justification for the arrest of the police chiefs.

The classified document drafted by the National Security Council (MGK) to assess threats to the state has no legal status but rather acts as a guide for the government. Since it was often abused in the past by the political and military authorities as part of witch hunts to go after critics and opponents, the Red Book has been subject to criticism from opposition parties and civil rights advocacy groups. Although it was unconstitutional, the current government used the Red Book to profile unsuspecting citizens based on their ideological, political beliefs or their ethnic and religious affiliations.

There is no reference to the Red Book in either the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) or the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK).

Out of 20 police officers who were detained last week as part of an investigation that is built on the alleged existence of a plot against a deadly al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as Tahşiyeciler (Annotators), four were arrested while 16 were released on Sunday. Judge Uyanık, who ordered the arrest of four said in his reasoned decision that Fethullah Gülen -- a Turkish Islamic scholar who advocates a moderate Islam rooted in science -- was mentioned in the document as a threat.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said in May that Gülen was not cited in the National Security Strategy Concept Paper, contradicting Judge Uyanık's assertion.

Turkey learned about the Tahşiyeciler group on Jan.22, 2010 when police raided the homes and offices of 112 people across Turkey in a campaign targeting al-Qaeda. Police discovered two hand grenades, ammunition and maps that were allegedly part of a plot to stage a terrorist attack in Turkey.

This group, which is reportedly known for its opposition to the faith-based Hizmet movement and Gülen, who inspired the movement -- due to the Hizmet movement's promotion of interfaith dialogue -- was allegedly pointed to by the TV series 'Tek Türkiye' as a “shadowy organization,” leading to the arrest of Mehmet Doğan, the group's leader.

Despite the fact that former intelligence director of the Turkish General Staff, Lt. Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin, said the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has kept the al-Qaeda-linked Tahşiyeciler group under observation since 2004 and sent a report to the police intelligence department as early as February 2008, people associated with the Gülen movement have faced legal action for supposedly conspiring against the group. The prosecutor claims that after Gülen targeted Tahşiyeciler in one of his speeches in 2009, the TV series in Samanyolu network also took aim at the group and Doğan had to spend months in prison as a result.

In an operation on Dec. 14, 2014, Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Samanyolu TV group General Manager Hidayet Karaca, police officers and TV soap opera scriptwriters were detained on charges of terrorism and of being part of a gang that conspired against Tahşiyeciler following a speech by Gülen, who had criticized the group, which was posted on his website Herkul.org on April 6, 2009. They were all linked to the investigation for defaming the radical group.

The prosecutors also claim that following Gülen's speech, Dumanlı ordered two columnists to write about Tahşiyeciler and that he published a news report about the speech. The allegations also claim that Samanyolu TV made implications about the group in an episode of a soap opera it broadcast. It is further claimed that the police then had “unfairly” raided the group.

İstanbul Public Prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz, who is supervising the investigation, issued an arrest warrant for Gülen on Dec. 20, 2014 as part of the Dec. 14 operation. Penal Judge of Peace Bekir Altun sent many people to prison, including Karaca.

Last week's detention was part of this ongoing politically-motivated witch hunt that the opposition claims was masterminded by the Islamist AK Party government to go after critics and opponents.

Judge Uyanık also made another blunder in his decision by saying that the police were accused of planting bombs that were then used as evidence in a safe house operated by Tahşiyeciler group.

In fact, two police officers, identified as C.A. and K.G., who were accused of planting the evidence were not even brought to the court but rather were released by the prosecutor after questioning.

In safe houses used by Tahşiyeciler in İstanbul's Bahçelievler neighborhood, three hand grenades were found in the 2010 raids. It turned out that the police officers' fingerprints that were found at the scene were on a bag in which the bombs were placed, and not on the bombs themselves, because the protective gloves they used were torn during the search of the house.

In fact, the original indictment against the Tahşiyeciler group had already refuted the claims made about the officers. Police officers involved in the raids testified in 2011 at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court that the gloves used at the crime scene were worn out and that was the reason the police officers' fingerprints were found on a plastic bag that was logged as evidence.

The police officers were cleared and this breach of protocol was immediately recorded in the police investigation file at the time after the crime scene investigation team was alerted.

The terrorism charges against Gülen, journalists, and anti-terror police chiefs who have all somehow conspired against al-Qaida linked Tahşiyeciler group also lacked any concrete evidence in the investigation file. According to the TCK, a organization must be associated with violence and coercion to qualify for terrorism charges. Judge Uyanık also admitted that there is no evidence suggesting that Gülen and others in the case have ever committed acts of violence.

Yet, he said government-issued weapons to police chiefs will qualify them to be charged as armed terrorist organization.

Since the disclosure of a high-profile corruption and bribery scandal in late 2013 which implicated senior government officials as well as family members of then-prime minister and now president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish government declared the Gülen movement an enemy, blaming it for orchestrating the graft probe to unseat its rule in collaboration with what it said were international circles. Gülen strongly denied the charges and the government failed to present any evidence linking him to the graft probes.

As part of an effort to weaken the Gülen movement while covering up the graft scandal, President Erdoğan and his associates in the government have launched a crackdown on the movement and abused the criminal justice system to punish its members.

Erdoğan has publicly defended the al-Qaeda group leader, claiming that Doğan had been victimized. Calling him by his given name, Molla Muhammed, Erdoğan asserted that Doğan has lost 90 percent of his sight in both eyes. Appearing on CNN Türk in December 2014, the Tahşiye leader, who was detained and later released pending trial, was seen reading the document himself during a live interview. He also acknowledged during the interview that he "loves Osama bin Laden."

Among the video footage seized in the safe house of the organization, the group leader of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group can be heard calling his followers to armed jihad. The footage was aired on the CNN Türk and Habertürk national networks. In it, Doğan can be heard saying that the head of the Turkish government and the head of the religious authority are foreigners and should be killed in an armed attack.

“I'm saying, go build arms and kill [them]," he said in the video. "If the sword is not used, then this is not Islam."

He can also be heard asking his followers to build bombs in their homes, claiming that their religion allows for such practices. Doğan said Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India are not governed by Sharia law and predicted that they will be soon wiped out.

In a video aired by Habertürk, Doğan says, “If an army [al-Qaeda] shows up in Afghanistan and that army calls on you [to join its ranks], you should join that war [jihad] even if you can only crawl.”

Doğan also wrote a book called “Cihadname” in which he emphasized the global jihad theory of al-Qaeda and said: “It is a religious duty to fight against non-believers. … A jihad against Jews and Christians is a better deed than jihad against non-believers.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 June 2015, Wednesday