An alleged secret plot against members of the faith-based Gülen movement -- also known as Hizmet -- inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, which became public last year, is being put into action step by step based on questionable testimonies obtained from secret witnesses, informants and anonymous complainants leading to criminal prosecutions apparently orchestrated by political authorities.
The plot was exposed last June when former Interior Minister Idris Naim Şahin submitted a question to Parliament asking if there is a secret plot against the Gülen movement and if the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had mobilized all its resources to gather evidence to initiate an operation against the movement.
Şahin resigned from the AK Party in December 2013 over a government corruption and bribery scandal as a result of which then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched a war against the Gülen movement over accusations that the movement masterminded the probe in which Erdoğan's close circle was implicated. The movement strongly denies having any role in the corruption probe.
Gülen and the movement he inspired have since then been unjustly targeted with a series of plots that were allegedly cooked up by the government.
Recently, a scandalous, government-driven indictment prepared by an Ankara prosecutor that described Gülen as a “terrorist” has cited as evidence the testimony of a well-known drug trafficker who has been convicted of 13 different crimes.
The indictment prepared by Ankara public prosecutor Serdar Coşkun included testimony given by Kadir İnan, who has been convicted of drug trafficking, murder, attempted murder, blackmail and extortion. İnan, a fugitive for two years, was detained in February 2013 as part of a sweeping police crackdown on a drug trafficking network in Ankara.
During the search of his home, police found a government-issued MP5 machine gun, two unregistered weapons and communications equipment. Investigators discovered that İnan had been working closely with a crooked cop named Seyyit Akşit, who was passing information to İnan regarding the identities of informants in the drug world as well as details of a police investigation into a drug cartel in Ankara.
Both İnan and Akşit were pressured to testify against several people, including former police chiefs, and blame the Gülen movement in exchange for the withdrawal of certain charges against them, including theft. But Akşit later notified the prosecutor conducting the investigation that he had changed his testimony because the promises had not been fulfilled.
A letter written by Akşit blowing the whistle on a government plot against Hizmet was not included in the indictment, and the prosecutor who was originally assigned to investigate Akşit's claims of a plot was later dismissed.
Akşit is now among seven suspects listed in the indictment. The indictment accuses seven suspects, including four police officers, of delivering a police car, equipment, documents and information to criminal organizations.
The indictment will be heard at the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court, a special court that was recently set up by a government-controlled judicial council to try opponents and critics. No trial date has been set.
The whole case appears to have been built on testimony provided by one disgraced policeman and one drug trafficker, even though the policeman later changed his testimony.
The prosecutor has claimed the suspects belong to what he called the "Fethullahist terrorist organization," although no such organization has ever existed.
No court has convicted Gülen -- whose worldwide movement focuses on education and interfaith dialogue efforts -- of being a terrorist.
Last September, it was also revealed that Ankara public prosecutor Coşkun also listed Varol Bülent Aral -- a suspect in the 2007 murders of three Bible publishers in Malatya -- as an anonymous witness to support his case against the Gülen movement.
In footage that is used as evidence in the indictment, Aral is heard saying that the “parallel structure” -- a derogatory name applied to the Hizmet movement by Erdoğan -- hired him as an agent and helped him infiltrate the left-wing armed organization, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).
However, an official statement sent by the intelligence unit of the National Police Department to the Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court, which heard the Zirve murder trial, clearly shows that Aral is an agent who works for the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
The Malatya Police Department said Aral was arrested in 1995 for his involvement with the DHKP/C but was later released after MİT officials wrote to the department informing them that Aral was working as an informant for MİT.
Efforts aim to link unsolved murders with movement
Pro-government newspapers and media that are known to be directly controlled by the government have also been publishing stories that seem to be part of the government's attempts to associate the Gülen movement with several assassinations and attacks in the past. These include a bomb attack on the Council of State in 2006, the murder of businessman Üzeyir Garih in 2001, the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, the death of Father Andrea Santoro, a Catholic priest in Trabzon, in 2007 and the Zirve murders, when three Christians were brutally killed in 2007.
Last December, the İstanbul 1st Penal Court of Peace issued an arrest warrant for Gülen and requested that the scholar be extradited from the United States, which is seen as a step toward an Interpol Red Notice and ultimately extradition from the US. However, US law requires that a crime be recognized in both countries' jurisdictions and that the offense not be political in nature.
A government whistleblower who tweets under the pseudonym Fuat Avni and claims to be in President Erdoğan's inner circle said in series of tweets last month that Erdoğan and the AK Party government are trying to accuse the Gülen movement of involvement in unsolved murders committed during the 1990s.
According to Avni, the latest operations targeting the people and institutions close to the movement aim to create the public perception that Turkish Islamic scholar Gülen ordered some people in the movement who have links to the deep state to commit a number of murders, especially the murders of people of Kurdish origin. These murders were widely believed to have been committed by deep state elements.
Avni also claimed that Erdoğan and people close to him want an early election in a context of political chaos, a situation in which the AK Party might gain more votes in order to form a single-party government. He said that Erdoğan aims to create chaos in the primarily Kurdish Southeast by orchestrating clashes between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Islamist Kurds linked to Hezbollah in Turkey. The responsibility for the chaos after these clashes will be laid on the Gülen movement, Avni also said.
Witch-hunt trial collapses
Earlier this month, Turkey saw the collapse of a witch-hunt trial, which was touted by the government as evidence linking a bug that was planted in Erdoğan's office to the Gülen movement, even though the indictment did not mention the Gülen movement at all.
Hasan Palaz, the former vice president of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) who was arrested in early April as part of an investigation into the bugging device allegedly found in Erdoğan's office, was acquitted of charges and released from the prison.
Palaz was acquitted of multiple charges that included forging official documents, destroying, concealing or tampering with evidence, and espionage. Public prosecutor Durak Çetin had sought up to 36 years in prison for Palaz and others, stating that conversations in Erdoğan's office were illegally monitored.
However, the Ankara 7th High Criminal Court ruled that “no evidence of espionage had been found” regarding wiretapping with the aim of political espionage, violating the privacy of interpersonal communication and recording a personal conversation without permission.
Published on Today's Zaman, 25 July 2015, Saturday