June 17, 2015

Police raid NGO offices, education centers in new gov’t-orchestrated move

Police raided on Wednesday the offices of civil society organizations in the Turkish province of Osmaniye, as well as a charity foundation and an education center in Antalya province, in what is considered to be yet another government-backed operation against institutions associated with the faith-based Gülen movement.

The operation was reportedly conducted on the basis of "reasonable suspicion," on charges which have not been publicized yet. The Rasanet Youth Foundation, which is involved in charity and education services in Antalya, and FEM University Preparation Schools, both located in the same building, were raided. Rasanet Youth Foundation President and businessman Hasan Yılmaz and foundation official Ergün Gürzal's houses were also searched by the police officers.

The request for a search warrant was initially rejected by a prosecutor; however, an upper court revoked the prosecutor's rejection, issuing the search warrant, according to the Cihan news agency.

It was not currently known what police are searching for. Armed police officers stood outside the building where the raid took place in the presence of tens of students attending courses at FEM and Rasanet Youth Foundation.

Lawyers for the Rasanet Youth Foundation, which is widely acclaimed for its social and educational activities in and outside Turkey since 1977, said that they will give a detailed statement about the unlawful operation after the searches end.

Meanwhile, police from Osmaniye Police Departmeny's Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Unit raided eleven offices of civil society organizations in the early hours of Wednesday morning, including educational centers and business associations established by people close to Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement.

Upon the order of Osmaniye Penal Court of Peace Justice Erhan Emre, police seized computers, invoices, income and expense reports and other documents which might serve as evidence of a crime from the NGO offices for detailed investigation.

Gazi Kozanoğlu, a lawyer representing NGOs in Osmaniye, said that the police raids and searches in NGOs in Osmaniye are unlawful, as the search warrant from the court doesn't carry the original signature of the judge and is not justified. “We will object to these unlawful operations and submit a criminal complaint against all officials involved in the unlawful raids,” Kozanoğlu said.

Police raid public institutions in Manisa in gov't-backed operation

Anti-terrorism teams conducted simultaneous raids on Tuesday of a union and two public institutions in Manisa in a new wave of government-led operations targeting people deemed to have an affiliation with the Gülen movement.

The Manisa Provincial Directorate of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, the Beydere Forest Workers Union (Toç-Bir-Sen) and the Beydere Directorate of Seed Certification were raided by dozens of police officers from the Manisa Police Department's anti-smuggling and organized crime unit early on Tuesday morning on the grounds that money was being illegally transferred to institutions affiliated with the “parallel state,” a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

The police inspected computers and seized documents for examination. During the search, police officers stood outside the building for added security; they also barred journalists from entering the building to report on the search.

The operations are widely believed to be an act of retribution by Erdoğan's administration for a corruption investigation that went public in December 2013. Erdoğan claims the Gülen movement tried -- and failed -- to carry out a coup attempt against him and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in the form of a graft investigation that became public knowledge on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, implicating former Cabinet ministers, prominent businessmen close to the administration and even members of Erdoğan's family.

Last month more than 10 CSOs including the Manisa Workers Association (MAÇAD), the Manisa Education Volunteers Association (MEGDER), the Manisa Active Educators Association (AKED), the Manisa Millennium Public Servants Association and the Manisa Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (MASİAD) were also raided by Manisa police based on “reasonable suspicion” that they had committed crimes.

Reacting against the police operations in Manisa, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Manisa deputy Zeynel Balkız said that government-orchestrated operations disturb people in the city. Balkız also called on Manisa Police Department Chief Tayfur Erdal Ceren not to be a tool of the AK Party government. “All unlawful acts by government-ordered officials against the innocent people of Manisa will be [held] accountable before the law,” he added.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 June 2015, Wednesday