December 23, 2015

Bad news for Erdoğan’s lawyers in the US

İhsan Yılmaz

Several weeks ago, a lawyer based in England and Canada, Mr. Robert Amsterdam, announced in the US that he had been hired by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to sue Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement.

After he made this announcement, suddenly, one-sided, biased, twisted and manipulated news started appearing in the US media against the movement. All of it seem to be in line with what Mr. Amsterdam has been arguing. The regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is paying Mr. Amsterdam millions of US dollars and he is trying to earn the payments by not only opening funny lawsuits against Hizmet but also running a libelous PR campaign against Hizmet and Gülen.

Strangely enough, unlike the pieces that you would see in prestigious papers such as The New York Times or the Washington Post, these anti-Hizmet pieces treat the AKP government in Turkey as if it is flawless and one of the best democratic governments in the world. Nobody can object to news and comments that have a critical stance against Hizmet and that question its claims and activities. However, if you publish pieces on Turkey and state that Gülen is being tried in Turkey for the alleged crime of attempting to topple the government, then you must also tell readers what this is all about. Without talking about the corruption cases against the AKP, its despotism, the lack of the rule of law and the evaporation of human rights, imprisoned journalists, etc., a journalist is only publishing a pro-Erdoğan propaganda piece.

The lawsuit that Mr. Amsterdam and his US-based colleagues have opened against Mr. Gülen is about a group known as Tahşiyeciler. Many people, including Samanyolu TV (STV) television head Hidayet Karaca, have been in prison for more than a year without any evidence but based on the allegation that Gülen and these people see Tahşiyeciler as competitors (!) and have plotted against the group and imprisoned its members. Until this funny case, I had never heard of this group. It must have a few hundred members. It is so stupid to argue that Hizmet, which is in 170 countries, would see this group as a competitor and plot against it. There are hundreds and maybe thousands of such groups in Turkey. Anyway.

The AKP's prosecutor claims that while these Tahşiyeciler guys are ordinary citizens, Hizmet wanted to present them as if they were pro-al-Qaeda. Now, paid by the AKP, Mr. Amsterdam has opened a lawsuit on their behalf. In other words, the AKP is paying a lawyer to defend a group that is allegedly pro-al-Qaeda.

The AKP has arranged a court with chosen pro-AKP judges to deal with Mr. Karaca et al in the case concerning Tahşiyeciler. In the case, Mr. Gülen is the number-one suspect. It is obvious that Mr. Amsterdam will be looking to the verdict of this case in the US. The case started on Monday. Let me repeat, this court is specifically designed by the AKP to punish Gülen and a number of other people.

Now, let us come to the bad news for the AKP and its lawyer, Mr. Amsterdam. Even this pro-AKP court announced that a report prepared by Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) -- which is under Erdoğan's firm control -- regarding the activities of the Tahşiyeciler group and its leader Mehmet Doğan is included in the indictment. In the report, MİT states that it found that Doğan had “publicly” praised Osama bin Laden, the former leader of the radical Islamist terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

As Today's Zaman has reported, footage seized during an operation against this group on Jan. 22, 2010 was aired on the CNN Türk network and in it, Doğan can be heard saying that the head of the Turkish government and the head of the country's religious authority are foreigners and should be killed in an armed attack. The leader of Tahşiyeciler explicitly and unequivocally says in the footage, “I'm saying, go and build arms and kill [them]." He also states that "if the sword is not used, then this is not Islam.” What is more, in a live interview with CNN Türk last year, Mr. Doğan clearly said that he “loves Osama bin Laden because he is a devoted Muslim.”

In the MİT report sent to the court, it was also stated that MİT has been carrying out investigations into the Tahşiyeciler group. The report reads that “in his books and articles, Doğan states that Osama bin Laden, who he calls Suayb Bun Salih, is the Mahdi's commander and al-Qaeda is the army of the Mahdi.” The court did not give out any further information regarding the MİT report but stated that copies of it would be given to the press soon.

If you read any news on the lawsuits against Mr. Gülen that does not mention any of these details, you should be suspicious about the journalistic credentials of the piece!

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