September 30, 2015

Lawyer: Indictment against Gülen based on unproven accusations

Nurullah Albayrak, the lawyer representing Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of being the leader of an armed terrorist organization as part of a government-backed case, said the recently revealed indictment against Gülen is based on groundless accusations.

Speaking with Today's Zaman on Wednesday, Albayrak said the indictment, which was recently submitted to the 14th High Criminal Court in İstanbul by public prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz, who is supervising the investigation, is based on accusations without merit. According to Albayrak, the 15 pieces of evidence which were submitted as proof of the crimes, including four articles from two newspapers, two conversations from an episode of a soap opera, one speech from an Internet website and legal wiretappings by the police in the Tahşiyeciler case, do not show any indication of the suspect's involvement in any kind of violence.

Albayrak also underlined that terms such as “being evaluated," “believed,” “thought,” “being understood,” “cast doubts on” and “not being determined” in the indictment prove that it is based on baseless accusations. Contrary to its accusations, the indictment also noted that there is no concrete evidence of Gülen's involvement in any violence, Albayrak said. “Such an investigation has never been seen in the legal history of the world,” he added.

The indictment, which was supposed to be submitted to court nine months ago, was made public by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Sept. 17, even though it had not yet been made available to defense lawyers at the time. It seeks up to 34 years in prison for Gülen on charges of "forming and leading an armed organization," while Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca is accused of "being a member of a terrorist organization" and faces up to 27 years in prison.

On the other hand, the prosecutors in the case reportedly failed to bring charges against Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı due to lack of evidence.

In an operation on Dec. 14, 2014, Dumanlı, Karaca, soap opera scriptwriters and police officers were detained on charges of terrorism and of being part of a gang that conspired against the Tahşiyeciler group, after Gülen gave a speech in 2009, in which the scholar warned against the group, saying that it pretends to be a religious group. The prosecutors who ordered the Dec. 14 detentions claim that, following Gülen's speech, Dumanlı ordered two columnists to write about Tahşiyeciler and that he published the speech in a news report. The allegations also claim that Samanyolu TV made implications about the group in an episode of a soap opera it broadcast. It further claims that the police then “unfairly” raided the group.

Prosecutor Yılmaz issued an arrest warrant for Gülen on Dec. 20, 2014 as part of the operation. Penal Judge of Peace Bekir Altun sent many people to prison as part of the case, including Karaca. Defense lawyers strongly deny the accusation, which they say has not been substantiated.

Gülen's lawyer Albayrak stressed that the indictment has not yet been accepted by the court. "If the indictment is accepted and the investigation turns into a trial, we will all see how people who did not even hold a pocket knife in their lives were turned into a terrorist group and who plotted against whom," Albayrak said. In the past, the lawyer has frequently denied the pro-government media's claims that Gülen leads a "terrorist organization," stressing that Gülen has had no intention other than establishing tolerance and dialogue in society throughout his life.

Gülen's teachings inspire the Gülen movement, also called the Hizmet movement, a faith-based civil society organization. The movement promotes interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems by peaceful means throughout the world.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government targeted the Zaman daily and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, both of which are inspired by the Gülen movement, and accused the media outlets of attempting to oust the government through sweeping government graft probes that went public in December 2013 and implicated numerous high-profile individuals, including ministers. The government has yet to provide solid evidence of its claims.

The Tahşiye group was raided in 2010 over their alleged links to al-Qaeda and their leader, Mehmet Doğan, spent 17 months in prison. More than five years since the first indictment of Tahşiyeciler, one of the individuals who stood trial as part of the case launched a criminal complaint on May 16, 2014 against certain individuals based on Gülen's speech in 2009, and the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation which concluded with the arrest of Karaca on Dec. 14.

Tahşiye leader Doğan, who was detained and later released pending trial, acknowledged in an interview with CNN Türk in December 2014 that he "loves Osama bin Laden."

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 September 2015, Wednesday