December 23, 2015

Lawyer says Gülen ready to testify as part of Tahşiyeciler case

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen is ready to testify to judicial authorities in the US over allegations that he conspired against the al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as Tahşiyeciler, his lawyer has said.

The first hearing in the trial -- with journalists and media professionals, including Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca, comprising almost half of the suspects -- in which the suspects are accused of targeting and conspiring against radical group Tahşiyeciler and its leader Mehmet Doğan, was held at the İstanbul Çağlayan Courthouse on Tuesday.

There are 33 suspects in the case. The 332-page indictment is seeking up to 34 years in prison for Gülen on charges of "forming and leading an armed organization," while Karaca is accused of "membership in a terrorist organization" and faces up to 27 years in prison. However, the indictment fails to provide any evidence proving Gülen or the other suspects either possess arms or have been involved in terrorist activity.

Gülen's lawyer Nurullah Albayrak said at the first hearing on Tuesday that Gülen is ready to testify as part of the case by means of a letter rogatory, in which a Turkish court requests that a US court hear his testimony on its behalf.

Gülen, who preaches a moderate version of Islam, is the inspiration behind the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement. He lives in self-imposed exile in the US. Gülen has inspired a vast network of schools, charitable organizations, health institutions and cultural dialogue centers around the world.

In the meantime, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in remarks that appeared in the Akşam daily on Tuesday called on Gülen to come to Turkey, appear before a court and respond to the allegations against him. "This would be the right thing to do," he said.

The Gülen movement and Gülen himself came under immense pressure from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) after a corruption scandal erupted with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013 involving senior members of the government. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan openly declared last year he would do whatever it takes to eliminate the “parallel structure,” a term he invented to refer to alleged sympathizers of the movement within the state bureaucracy, even if this requires a “witch hunt.”

As part of the smear campaign against Gülen and the movement, terrorism charges have been directed at Gülen and the people who follow his teachings despite the lack of any evidence to this end.

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