October 9, 2015

Erdoğan’s conspiracy theory extends to US, UK, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands and others

Abdullah Bozkurt

By all accounts, the 1,453-page indictment against dozens of high-ranking anti-corruption investigators and Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen is a frivolous compilation of far-fetched conspiracy theories tying veteran police chiefs, Mr. Gülen and other critics of the government to foreign powers without any evidence whatsoever.

İstanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Ismail Uçar's sprawling indictment links all kinds of unrelated events -- such as student movements in Mexico, protests in Brazil and the Gezi events in Turkey -- with each other in a vast conspiracy aimed at toppling the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, the White House and the spokespeople of the US State Department and deputies in the European Parliament are all involved in this conspiracy.

According to this partisan prosecutor, every event in Turkey and other countries has a specific role in this elaborate plot to topple the government of former prime minister and current President Erdoğan. Reading the indictment, one gets the feeling that it is nothing but a deliberate scheme by an Islamist prosecutor, weaving together various charges involving foreign countries and domestic groups in order to discredit anti-corruption investigators who exposed the largest corruption scandal in Turkish history, implicating Erdoğan, his family members and his political and business associates. We should also recall that it was this prosecutor who covered up the Dec. 25, 2013 corruption probe into Erdoğan's son Bilal and his associate Saudi national Yasin al-Qadi, a controversial figure who was on US and UN terrorism lists for years for allegedly financing al-Qaeda.

It is not surprising to see that the indictment sounds identical to what Erdoğan has been saying publicly since the corruption probes and echoes the same editorials, commentaries and accusations appearing in pro-Erdoğan media, both in tone and substance. Erdoğan's critics and foes were also included in the indictment as part of sinister plan to unleash a campaign of political persecution on the opposition. Uçar's job seems very difficult, considering that the public has already accepted the argument that the investigations and trials on trumped up charges are nothing but an attempt to deflect corruption claims away from Erdoğan.

The description of this long indictment as a “storybook” by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) sums up this nonsensical charges sheet, which is full of conspiracy theories without a shred of actual evidence proving the alleged crimes. I have read many indictments in my life as a journalist, but have never come across one like this, both in the format and the way it was written and presented.

Prosecutor Uçar starts out his indictment by making a historical claim that all the states established in the Anatolian lands such as the Hittites, Lydians, Romans, Seljuks and Ottomans were all superpowers of their times. He then asserts that Turkey has not risen to superpower status because it has been deliberately thwarted, “especially by our Western friends and their collaborators at home,” who have been involved in all sorts of dirty games, intricacies, terrorism and crises. With this introduction, the indictment reveals its color from the beginning as a political statement rather than a judicial document that should presents facts and evidence.

Recalling the conquest of Constantinople (İstanbul) by the Ottomans and the collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire, Uçar claims that the Western world has long harbored the idea of resurrecting the Eastern Roman Empire in the future. He states that imperialist and colonial powers would never give up on the idea of dismembering Turkey and asks the nation to be a vigilant against those who want to weaken and destroy the state. Here you get the firm perception that he is behaving like a politician rather than a lawyer. He then accuses Europe of plundering natural resources in Africa and energy sources in the Middle East. He goes on by saying that the “current European civilization” deliberately wreaks havoc and instigates wars in Middle Eastern countries and causes the loss of human life.

The indictment talks at length about how the imperialist powers exploit religion and education to advance their own interests and states that American and British agents have been conducting espionage under the cover of sheiks in Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. He also gives examples from a Muslim convert French spy who worked in Algeria in the 1800s under the cover of religion. He says the sectarian wars in Syria and Iraq were encouraged by the West. Based on revisionist and questionable historical data, the prosecutor claims members of the Gülen movement are no different to the people mentioned in his historical anecdotes. He alleges that they have been infiltrating the government for the last 40 years in order to weaken the government and instigate corruption probes with its members in the police and judiciary.

Reading the indictment, one gets the feeling one is going through a very disorganized and poorly written student paper that was submitted in an introduction to political science 101 course and received an F grade. The prosecutor cites Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Samuel von Pufendorf, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Karl Marx, Lenin, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, al-Farabi, Ibn Khaldun and Dante and mentions examples from Greek philosophy, Chinese dynasties and the Roman and Persian empires. At one point, he ventures to explain different types of governance such as monarchy and democracy at great length for reasons that are not clear at all. While trying to describe how democracy functions with political theories and historical references, he writes more than 60 paragraphs, using close to 4,000 words. Whether this an effort to write an academic paper or an indictment gets fuzzier as one moves through pages.

Finally, after some 100 pages, the prosecutor begins to fill the template he has hitherto constructed with charges against the Gülen movement with no evidence cited. He rehashes all sorts of claims that were published in pro-Erdoğan media outlets as part of defamation campaign against Gülen. Two pages later, he quickly returns to talking about the history of parliamentary democracy in Turkey. At one point, all of a sudden he inserts the story of Cain and Abel (also known as Qabil and Habil), the first two sons of Adam and Eve, and says the killing of Abel by Cain -- known as the first murder -- was due to a power struggle. He tries to explain this with Hobbesian and Freudian theories.

From the first murder, Uçar jumps to the power struggle in the Roman Empire and conspiracies about the rule of Julius Caesar and previous Muslim states, for which the Ottomans are allocated a considerable space (12 pages, or more than 4,000 words) in the indictment. After finally concluding the historical tour with a history of the Turkish Republic, the prosecutor then talks about types of political opposition, revolutions and uprisings in different countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Romania, South Korea, Argentina, Cambodia, Chile, Cameroon and Greece.

Finally, arriving at the present day after a long tour d'horizon into his own reconstructed history, the prosecutor says that in modern times, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey have all faced uprisings recently. Uçar claims that foreign powers tried to replicate in Brazil and Mexico what they had done to Mexico in 2012 with the student group “Yo soy 132” (I am 132), which helped to bring out tens of thousands of protesters against President Enrique Pena Nieto during the election campaign. Questioning Morgan Stanley's reports on the Turkish and Brazilian economies, Uçar lists a number of similarities in anti-government protests that took place in Turkey and Brazil in 2013 around the same time. He stated international media networks such CNN and the BBC provided unusually wide coverage of these protests in both countries, asserting that the protests were also intended to discredit the World Cup in Brazil and the Mediterranean Games in Turkey.

The prosecutor likens Gezi protesters to Otpor! -- a political movement formed by a group of student activists that opposed the policies of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic -- and says it was supported by the US. He recalls that European politicians including Claudia Roth, the co-chair of the Green Party in Germany, supported the Gezi protests. He also complains why the national media did not cover anti-government protests in Britain during the G-8 meeting that happened around the same time during Gezi protests.

Uçar claims statements by foreign officials show the complicity of foreign powers in the Gezi protests by listing various statements that called for respect for the right to peaceful protests and the right to freedom of assembly by US officials like Jen Psaki, former State Department spokesperson and currently the White House communications director; Laura Lucas Magnuson, then-US National Security Council spokeswoman who now director of media relations at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; German Chancellor Merkel; former Dutch Foreign Minister Timmermans, who is now the first vice president of the European Commission and a European commissioner; and condemnations by the European Parliament on the brutal police crackdown. Borrowing from the rhetoric of Erdoğan, he says external powers wanted to force the Turkish government to kneel down before them.

This is the latest example of farcical proceedings in Turkey under the crooked Islamist rulers, who see legitimate criticism as treason and consider Turkey's longtime allies and friends to be foes. As Erdoğan builds the country in his own image, even judicial proceedings have now turned into full-blown conspiracies that are aimed to persecute political and apolitical opposition alike. Just like Erdoğan's loyalist prosecutor considers the German chancellor's reasonable call on the Turkish government during the harsh police crackdown on protesters to be evidence of a plan to topple the Islamist government, his aide Muhammed Taha Gergerlioğlu, detained on espionage charges in Germany and being tried in a court of law, told his colleagues that Germany is an enemy of Turkey. It is same mindset that overlooks the fact that Germany is the largest trading partner of Turkey and a NATO ally that rushed Patriot batteries to defend Turkey against missile threats from Syria when needed.

Lumping completely disparate events altogether without any proof of connection and working his way through with guilt by associations and resemblances from Mexico to Germany, this indictment offers nothing but a clear picture of the paranoiac mindset in Turkey's political leadership. That hostile and dangerous outlook unfortunately has a cascading impact on the civil service and judiciary in Turkey. This indictment is a manifestation of the horrible specter looming large on Turkey's dark horizon and a glimpse into the conspiratorial mindset that rules the nation today.

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 October 2015, Friday