September 23, 2015

Tahşiye indictment dismissed as ludicrous, full of false claims

Critics have dismissed an indictment that targeted dozens of suspects for allegedly framing a radical group as ludicrous, arguing that the document is full of false claims, fabricated evidence and paragraphs copied and pasted by private inspectors.

Almost half of the suspects in the case are journalists and media workers, raising the question of if the case is another attempt by the Turkish authorities to stifle dissent. Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Samanyolu network executive Hidayet Karaca were detained on Dec. 14, 2014, when prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz ordered their arrest. Karaca has remained behind bars since then, with no trial date being scheduled for him to date.

Yılmaz, who prepared the indictment, ignored reports by the police and military intelligence offices and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), all of which described the Tahşiye group as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. Muammer Güler, who was the governor of İstanbul at the time, also described the group as an "al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group" when he announced an operation conducted by security forces against the group in 2009.

The suspects in the current case are accused of targeting and framing the Tahşiye group, whose leader, Mehmet Doğan, publicly praised al-Qaeda's slain leader Osama bin Laden. In a live interview with CNN Türk last year, Doğan said he "loves Osama bin Laden."

Zaman's chief editor, Dumanlı, who was detained for a week in last year's December operation, was however not included in the indictment. He was accused of publishing a news report and two columns regarding the group. The daily's news report consisted of coverage of a speech made by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. He warned against the Tahşiye group in a speech broadcast on his website. The Turkish authorities characterized the speech as an "order" by Gülen to go after the group. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the Tahşiye group as "conservative, innocent" people and has rejected claims that they are radicals.

An episode of a fictional soap opera aired by Samanyolu in 2009 also featured a scene that showed the Tahşiye group in a negative light, according to the indictment. This, the indictment claimed, was "an encrypted message by Gülen to security forces to target the group." Karaca was detained for this and has remained in jail for over nine months.

In the operation against Tahşiye in 2009, police found a large cache of weapons, including hand grenades, at the locations raided. Yılmaz described the group as "innocent," while calling the Gülen movement a "terrorist organization." The indictment failed to provide evidence to show that the Gülen movement possesses arms, however.

In the 332-page indictment, Gülen, a respected Turkish Islamic scholar, is accused of "establishing and managing an armed group," while Karaca is accused of being a "member of an armed terrorist group." Former police chiefs Tufan Ergüder, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Erol Demirhan, Yurt Atayün and Ömer Köse are accused of being a "members of an armed terrorist group," "libel" and "fabricating an official document."

In a decade-long trial in the past, Gülen was exonerated from charges that he was trying to overthrow the government. According to Turkish law, a person cannot be prosecuted for a crime he or she was acquitted of before.

The prosecutor also could not provide evidence to ask the United States to extradite Gülen, who resides in a rural Pennsylvania town.

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 September 2015, Wednesday