October 22, 2015

Criticism mounts as court arrests prominent businessman Sesli

A number of politicians have criticized the government for police operations carried out against prominent entrepreneurs in Uşak based on “reasonable suspicion,” as an Uşak court arrested businessman Hazim Sesli late on Wednesday.

Sesli was detained on Tuesday as part of a police operation conducted in Uşak on Oct. 14, where police officers detained 25 individuals, including prominent businessmen, on the grounds of “reasonable suspicion” that they were members of the so-called "parallel structure,” a phrase coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.

Speaking to the Cihan news agency, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman and İzmir deputy Oktay Vural stated that the operations against businessmen were aimed at terrorizing and suppressing voices critical of the government. “Nobody can be sure what the future holds for them anymore. [The government] is paralyzing the society, which is always wondering ‘What will happen to me next? Who have I helped?' They want to rule the society by making it deaf and blind [to unlawful operations carried out in the country]," Vural stated.

MHP Uşak deputy Durmuş Yılmaz came to the Uşak Palace of Justice to show support for Sesli and criticized the situation, saying that it is a “violation of universal law.” “This is certainly a perception operation. The [four] businessmen arrested [after the Oct. 14 police raid] will be kept [behind bars] for a while, and no indictment will be prepared for them. While waiting, these people will be subjected to torture and will be asked to repent for their actions. We [as the MHP] call on the conscience of our dignified judges and believe that they will restore justice,” Yılmaz said.

Also speaking to Cihan, former İzmir Mayor Burhan Özfatura criticized the government for the operation against prominent businessmen. “These recent events have gone over the limits of law, democracy and reason. The operations are aimed at suppression, tyranny and vengeance. Unfortunately, Turkey has become a country where there is no law and the arbitrary actions of one person are valued above everything else,” Özfatura said, referring to Erdoğan's witch hunt against the Gülen movement.

There have been many similar police operations that targeted specific individuals, businesses and civil society organizations affiliated with the Gülen movement. These operations are widely believed to be an act of retribution by the Erdoğan administration for the major graft investigations that were made public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, implicating Erdoğan and other high-ranking Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures. Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of using those investigations in an attempt to overthrow his government.

In May 2014 Erdoğan publicly vowed “not to give even water” to the movement's members. He has also said that he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the Gülen movement. Erdoğan has also ordered officials from AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to those inspired by the movement by any means necessary. The Gülen movement strongly denies the allegations of masterminding the graft investigations as part of an effort to overturn the government.

On Dec. 12, 2014, Erdoğan signed into law a change to Article 116 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK), reducing the threshold for the burden of proof that is required to obtain a search warrant from “strong and concrete evidence” to mere “reasonable suspicion.” Commentators allege that this allows the police to not only search any individual, their home or vehicle more easily but also paves the way for seizure of the property of government critics on the grounds that they have committed a crime.

Businessmen arrested in Ankara as part of gov't-led witch hunt

Kenan Ünal, a businessman whose experience was utilized during the construction of a Turkish school in Mongolia, was referred to court for arrest on Wednesday on charges of providing financial support to the so-called “parallel state,” as a part of a government-led with hunt against the Gülen movement.

Upon hearing about the investigation launched against him by prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, Ünal returned to Turkey from Tanzania to give a statement at the Ankara Courthouse. After hearing his statement, Coşkun referred Ünal to court for arrest on charges that he provided financial support to the so-called “parallel state” between 2004 and 2008. As a result of Coşkun's formal charge, Abdurrahman Gün, judge of the Ankara 4th Criminal Court of Peace, arrested Ünal and sent him to the Sincan F-type Prison in the Turkish capital of Ankara, pending trial.

Ünal's brother, Ramazan Ünal, criticized the arrest and said: “We went there [to Mongolia] to promote our country with a number of high state officials. President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan were accompanying us. I don't know what else to say. We love our country. Real terrorists are out there."

Published on Today's Zaman, 22 October 2015,