October 7, 2015

Unusually similar testimonies raise suspicions over legality of Tahşiye indictment

The fact that testimonies from 12 complainants are very similar to each other, including even identical spelling errors and the inaccurate use of some words, in the Tahşiye indictment has raised suspicions that the testimonies might have been prepared by one person and were afterwards signed by the complainants.

The indictment for the Tahşiye investigation that has long been under way against Hidayet Karaca, the head of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, and several police officers has been finally drafted by Public Prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz.

The prosecutor accuses the defendants of being members of the so-called pro-Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and the Parallel State Structure (PDY).

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

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.”

The indictment, which was ready nine months after the operation, has been slammed by many on the grounds that it is full of false claims, fabricated evidence and paragraphs copied and pasted from private investigator reports.

Moreover, the testimonies from 12 out of the 64 complainants in the case have a lot of similarities, a situation which is found unusual by lawyer Fikret Duran who represents Karaca.

Duran told Today's Zaman that the testimonies of the 12 complainants that were made at prosecutor's office are very similar even with regards to their spelling errors. He said this situation shows that the testimonies were prepared by someone else beforehand and that the complainants were just asked to sign them later.

Giving some examples of the similarities in the 12 testimonies, Duran said all of these testimonies end with the sentence: “As part of this investigation, I am filing charges against Fethullah Gülen and all media members, police officers and civilians who act under the orders of this complainant.” In this sentence, although Gülen is a suspect in this investigation, he is referred to as a "complainant" apparently by mistake and he is referred to as such in 12 of the testimonies which are supposed to have been given by different people on different dates. Punctuation marks in the 12 of the testimonies are also identical.

"Considering the fact that the people who gave the testimonies come from different ages, educations and social groups, it is strange for them to express themselves with the same words. An accurate thing can be said by 30 people but a word cannot be used inaccurately by 30 people. This situation in the indictment has strengthened our belief that the testimonies were prepared beforehand and later the complainants were asked to sign them," Duran said.

The lawyer also said the testimonies of the complainants were taken after the Dec. 14 operation, whereas they should have been taken before.

"In criminal investigations, the testimonies of complainants are taken first and then comes the suspect's testimony," he explained, adding that testimonies in the Tahşiye investigation started to be taken on Dec. 15, 2014, one day after the police operation, and continued until March 2015.

"The Tahşiye investigation was launched with the assumption that some people would file charges against the suspects. The people were called on one by one and they were convinced to become complainants," he said.

Records also indicate that then-Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç admitted that they called Mehmet Doğan, leader of the Tahşiye group, and asked him whether or not he would like to press charges against those who conducted the operation.

The lawyer also said the language used in the indictment is far from the language that is used in legal texts.

"We feel the use of media language and sometimes the discourse of the government in it. Pieces of texts prepared by different people were merged together to make it an indictment. The indictment reminds one of a black propaganda text more than a legal text that we see in criminal investigations," said Duran.

Published on Today's Zaman, 7 October 2015, Wednesday