September 20, 2015

Former justice minister: Crime with which to charge Dumanlı cannot be found

Former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Türk has said the prosecutor of the case cannot find a crime with which to charge Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, commenting on the finalized indictment on the Tahşiyeciler case.

The prosecutor in the Tahşiyeciler investigation, launched over charges of defaming an al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as Tahşiyeciler, failed to bring charges against Dumanlı due to a lack of evidence in the newly prepared indictment, but the prosecutor has not yet decided not to prosecute Dumanlı and separated his case. Dumanlı's lawyer Hasan Günaydın said he is concerned over a new plot being put in place against his client.

Commenting on the issue, Türk said: “As there are no charges against Dumanlı [in the indictment], there are no accusations. If an investigation concludes no crime was comMİTted, then you decide not to prosecute.” Noting that Dumanlı is not included in the indictment, Türk said, “It [Dumanlı's absence in the indictment] means [the prosecutor] cannot find a crime with which to charge Dumanlı.”

Türk also said investigations launched against journalists aim to oppress the media. He said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to level accusations at media outlets and that many cases have been initiated against members of the press.

Reiterating that freedom of the press is a key element in democracies, Türk said, “There is no freedom of expression, no freedom of thought, and media outlets which can make the voice of the public heard are silenced in a place where freedom of the press does not exist.”

Türk also advised the prosecutors to be careful when preparing indictments. Emphasizing the importance of the presumption of innocence, he said, “It is necessary not to accuse anyone without enough evidence.”

Mustafa Zeki Yıldırım, a penal law expert, also commented on Dumanlı's situation. He laid out the regular procedure that is followed, saying: “If a public prosecutor gathers enough evidence to raise suspicion in an investigation, he or she prepares an indictment and submits it to a court for a criminal case to be opened. And if not, he or she decides not to prosecute.”

Yıldırım concurred with Dumanlı's lawyer, saying he also worries a new plot might be in place and that he cannot see any reason for Dumanlı's file to be separated. “Dumanlı's testimony was taken, he was asked the questions that need to be asked and he answered the questions. He still lives in Turkey at a known address. What could be in [his] file [that would explain the reason for the separation of his file]?” Yıldırım said.

Yıldırım concluded by saying that people should not be left under suspicion and deprived of any of their freedoms.

The Tahşiyeciler group was raided in 2010 over its alleged links to al-Qaeda, and its leader, Mehmet Doğan, spent 17 months in prison. More than five years after the first Tahşiyeciler indictment, one of the individuals who stood trial as part of the Tahşiyeciler case filed a criminal complaint on May 16, 2014 against several individuals based on a 2009 speech by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar, and the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation which reached its conclusion with the detention of Dumanlı on Dec. 14. Tahşiyeciler leader Doğan was detained and later released pending trial. Doğan acknowledged in an interview with CNN Türk in December 2014 that he "loves Osama bin Laden."

However, the former intelligence director of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin, has said the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has kept the al-Qaeda-linked group under observation since 2004 and sent a report to the police intelligence department as early as February 2008 -- before Gülen's 2009 speech denouncing the group.

Speaking to the Bugün daily, Pekin said Tahşiyeciler came to the attention of army intelligence on Dec. 3, 2008, when police intelligence shared the MİT report with army staff and the police intelligence departments of the 12 provinces in which the group operates. Receiving an update to the report from MİT on Feb. 17 and March 30, 2009, Pekin said army intelligence shared the report with all military departments in March 2009. The İstanbul Public Prosecutor's Office began investigating the Tahşiyeciler group in May 2009.

The indictment in the Tahşiyeciler investigation was only recently prepared, though nine months have passed since groundless accusations began to be leveled at the suspects. The indictment, which was supposed to be submitted to court, was made public by the state-run Anadolu news agency Thursday evening.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 20 September 2015, Sunday